This Week in History: January 18th – 24th

Hello all!

And welcome, once more, to This Week in History, in which we take the current week and explore an interesting or unusual event that occurred somewhere in the past. This week, we’re going to be looking at arguably one of the most influential and arguably, one of the most contentious rulings made by the U.S. Supreme Court, with the court ruling on January 22nd, 1973, in favour of a woman’s right to abortion in the groundbreaking Roe v. Wade case.

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The Supreme Court of the United States, (Image used under Creative Commons license)

In this case, Norma McCorvey, assuming the pseudonym ‘Jane Roe’, challenged the interpretation of federal laws by Texas government officials on that basis that the laws which prohibited abortion in the state of Texas were unconstitutional. Roe argued that abortion was protected under a woman’s right to both privacy and liberty from the intervention of state governments, as highlighted in the Fourteenth Amendment, and, after much heated debate the case was brought before the Supreme Court. The case was met with much controversy on both sides of public opinion, with a number of debates surrounding foetal rights, civil rights, and the medical definitions of life  itself circling around it in a hotly contentious political firestorm that left the Supreme Court with a highly volatile issue on their hands.

After much discussion, the Supreme Court closed the case with a ruling in favour of abortions on the grounds that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited the United States Government from interfering with a person’s protected rights in regards to life, liberty, or property. Effectively, this meant that a state government could not put in place an laws which restricted a woman’s right to abortion on the grounds that her right to privacy prevented such legislation from infringing itself upon her. Abortions were made legal across the United States and any laws restricting their availability were placed under strict scrutiny as unconstitutional restrictions the rights of its citizens.

The decision was, and continues to be, a highly contentious issue, with pro-life and pro-choice protesters still clashing over it to this day.  There have been a number of movements in the United States calling for the decision to be overturned, as there have been a number of movements defending its position on the protection of civil liberties. What remains, however, is that the decision was groundbreaking when it was reacehd, and still continues to be cited in a number of legal cases to this day that deals with a woman’s right to medical treatment, to the rights of foetuses, and to the rights of the woman herself.

That’s about all we’ve got time for this week, join us next week when we’ll be examining another interesting event in the history of medicine, science, or philosophy!

That’s all for now,

Dan.

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