Roe v. Wade (1973)

IRAC Summary:
Issue: Does the Texas statute that criminalizes obtaining an abortion, except by medical advice for the purpose of saving a woman’s life, violate the Constitution of the United States?
Rule: The right to privacy, which is found in the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, encompasses a woman’s decision to have an abortion. However, this right is not absolute and must be balanced against the government’s interests in protecting women’s health and prenatal life.
Application: The Supreme Court held that the Texas statute is unconstitutional. The Court determined that the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion falls within the right to privacy protected by the 14th Amendment. The Court divided pregnancy into three trimesters and established a framework to balance the state’s interests with the woman’s privacy rights: during the first trimester, the state cannot regulate abortion beyond requiring that it is performed by a licensed doctor; during the second trimester, the state may regulate abortion if the regulations are reasonably related to maternal health; during the third trimester, once the fetus reaches viability, the state may regulate or even prohibit abortion, except where necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.
Conclusion: The Supreme Court struck down the Texas statute as it was too broad and violated the Constitution. The decision gave women autonomy over the abortion decision during the first trimester and set forth a structure for states to follow in regulating abortion.

Detailed IRAC Outline:

– The central constitutional issue in Roe v. Wade is whether the Texas law that makes it a crime to procure an abortion unless necessary to save the life of the mother violates a woman’s constitutional rights.

– The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution includes a fundamental “right to privacy” that protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose whether to have an abortion.
– The Court recognizes that this right is not unqualified and must be considered against important state interests in regulation.

1. Historical Perspectives and the Right to Privacy:
– The Court reviews past cases and the historical context of the right to privacy, noting that this right is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision regarding pregnancy termination.
– The Court rejects the idea that the right to privacy is absolute and acknowledges the state’s interests in regulating abortions.

  1. The Trimester Framework:
    • First Trimester: During this period, the Court holds that the state has no compelling interest in regulating abortions other than basic health safeguards, such as requiring that a licensed doctor performs the procedure.
    • Second Trimester: As the risk to the woman’s health increases, the state may impose regulations related to maternal health but cannot prohibit abortions outright.
    • Third Trimester (Post-Viability): The fetus is considered viable and can potentially survive outside the womb. The state has a stronger interest in protecting potential life and can regulate or prohibit abortions, except where they are necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.
  2. The Viability Analysis:
    • The Court points out that viability is typically placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, and the state has an interest in protecting potential life at this stage.
    • The Court determines that the state’s interest becomes compelling at the point of viability; therefore, the state can proscribe abortion during the third trimester subject to the exceptions noted above.

– The Texas statute is deemed unconstitutional as it infringes on the fundamental right to privacy, including the right to choose to have an abortion, identified by the Court.
– The decision of the Supreme Court establishes a framework for analyzing abortion regulations and articulates the woman’s right to choose, balanced against the state’s interest in regulating abortions to protect the woman’s health and the potential life of the fetus.

Discover more from Legal Three

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading