Roe v. Wade & Texas: From District Court to the U.S. Supreme Court & Aftermath
This work traces the history of Roe v. Wade in an attempt to discuss the evolution of the case, its significance and lastly how it changed politics and law in its aftermath. The work will briefly trace the case, from inception to the Supreme Court and then discuss its significance, as well as the manner in which its aftermath has affected the politics and policy associated with the issue of abortion and other "rights" issues as they occur on a state by state and federal basis.
Roe v. Wade is probably the most recognized of all U.S. Supreme Court rulings of the 20th century. Yet, few people are aware of the facts that precipitate its history and evolution. The case itself was demonstrative of a trend to develop litigation as a tool for social change, that followed Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. (Rubin, 1987, pp. 1-2) Yet, like all Supreme Court rulings Roe vs. Wade was required to pass through all subsequent courts in conjunction with the source of the law or question answered or raised in the case. This means that the Roe vs. Wade began at the U.S. District Court in Texas, where two enterprising attorneys sought to challenge the pre-civil war Texas law making abortion illegal in every case with the only exception being the imminent death of the mother.
During the early seventies, Texas women also played key roles in the landmark case, Roe v. Wade, which struck down a state law that made all abortions illegal (except those necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman). Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, two Dallas lawyers, filed a legal action in March 1970 on behalf of "Jane Roe" and all other women "who were or might become pregnant and want to consider all options." (Campbell, 2003, p. 440)
The initial ruling by the Texas District Court was limited, as it did find in favor of the Plaintiff, (Roe) on grounds of the 9th Amendment, which states that individual states cannot usurp rights not specifically addressed in the U.S. Constitution, but refused to provide the required injunction that would stop Henry Wade, the local District Attorney from enforcing the earlier Texas statute.
Weddington, sparked by memories of her own experience "as a scared graduate student in 1967 in a dirty, dusty Mexican border town to have an abortion," argued the case twice before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in January 1973 that the Texas law violated a woman's constitutional right to privacy. The decision in Roe v. Wade proved to be more of an opening gun than a final victory in the battle for "reproductive freedom" -- antiabortion forces have persuaded the legislature to prohibit abortion in the third trimester of a pregnancy and "right to life" conservatives insist that the Supreme Court will overturn the decision in the near future -- nevertheless, it symbolized greater control for women over their own lives. (Campbell, 2003, p. 440)
Roe v. Wade then moved forward to the Texas Supreme Court, where again the decision of the district court was upheld, and a partial victory was developed, yet no injunction was ordered. The case was then presented in a preliminary format to the U.S. Supreme Court, at the bequest of a flood of newly formed organizing and challenges to the courts with regard to the abortion question. Basically when the court was inundated with requests to hear cases challenging state laws illegalizing abortion they sought out the one that had the most merit litigiously as a challenge to individual rights and the Texas case Roe v. Wade was chosen. A fascinating article by Conway & Butler demonstrates that prior to Roe v. Wade individual states had the express right to restrict and/or support abortion availability. The work then goes on to describe, using the tool of prior abortion legislation at a state level to determine if the state would or would not restrict abortion, if Roe were overturned.
Prior to the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, each state could choose whether to restrict the availability of abortions just as it could choose to regulate the availability or total amount of any publicly provided good. In this paper we extend the theory of public goods and collective decision-making to abortion legislation. Abortion legislation is treated as a publicly provided good that results from the collective decision-making of the electorate. The median voter theorem then provides a convenient framework in which to identify the determinants of abortion legislation. Using state-level data prior to Roe v. Wade, we estimate the public demand for abortion legislation and predict the likely outcome for each state if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Our predictions should remain relevant even if it is not overturned, inasmuch as the Supreme Court's decision in Webster v. Reproductive Services (1989) upheld states' rights to regulate or restrict the availability of abortion. (Conway & Butler, 1992, p. 609)
The most fascinating aspect of this example is that the work itself demonstrates the kind of conjecture and research that has been given to this single issue, simply because Roe v. Wade was upheld in favor of the Plaintiff. This issue has been one of divisive uncertainty since Roe came on the scene in 1969 and will likely continue to be so for several decades to come.
Later organizers argue that the rapid manner in which the ruling was achieved, a little less than a four-year period, created more conflict that the Supreme Court ruling had solved, as much cohesion and organization was still in its infancy and had not yet won the court of public opinion needed to maintain the law, without constant conflict. (Rubin, 1987, p. 4) the issue, i.e. At hand, abortion, which was ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court as legal in the sense that illegalizing abortion would clearly violate a woman's right to privacy, became a solitary issue for many people, policies and organizations, that continues today to be a divisive social and political issue.
Karen Mulhauser, director of National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), expressed the opinion that 'had we made more gains" through the legislative and referendum processes, and taken a little longer at it, the public would have moved with us" (Rubin, 1987, p. 5)
Each popular and secondary political party, to the present now has the obligation of providing a platform opinion on abortion as an issue and candidates are then required to make allegiances based in part on this singular platform opinion. For the most part the conservative Republican Party, i.e. In the bipartisan system, demonstrates a desire to overturn Roe v. Wade statutes while the Democratic Party demonstrates the desire to maintain the laws under the original Supreme Court Ruling. Then of course there are countless attempts by many lobbying groups to restrict abortion at different levels and to some degree, or all together, which spring up yearly at a State and local judicial legislative level. Those which are in any way successful on a regional level are then challenged by Roe advocates, or at the very least individual civil rights advocated, and must be heard again by the U.S. Supreme Court, making these decisions federal.
Roger M. Williams, writing for the Saturday Review, compared the campaign to "an armoured column that has raced deep into enemy territory, outstripping their lines of supply." 11 the Court's decision itself served as a rallying point for organizational growth on both sides of this volatile, emotional, and symbolic cause. Later, with the strengthening of the organization of women's rights groups, the nature of the struggle changed from that of movement politics -- ruled by enthusiasm, esprit de corps, and volunteered services -- to a defensive organizational battle designed…