Roe vs Wade explained: How did the historic court ruling come to be?

Texas abortion law compared to Handmaid’s Tale on Loose Women

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A leaked initial draft majority opinion suggests the US Supreme Court is poised to vote to overturn the Roe v Wade decision that legalised abortion nationwide. The landmark ruling was voted 7-2 in favour nearly 50 years ago and has since prompted protests from social and judicial conservatives who have sought to overturn it.

The news was first reported by Politico on Monday and could potentially undo the decision won by plaintiff Jane Roe.

Ms Roe, later identified as Norma McCorvey, was an unmarried pregnant woman who was unable to get an abortion under Texas law.

At the time the legislation stated it was illegal unless to save the life of the mother.

During the case, Ms Roe’s lawyers said she was unable to travel to a state that did not prohibit abortions.

They also argued that the law wasn’t specific enough and infringed on Ms Roe’s constitutional rights.

Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, a Republican nominated by the president Richard Nixon, wrote in the sweeping majority opinion that the Texas law infringed on women’s right to privacy.

He also noted it was overly broad and violated the due process clause in the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

The decision said: “This right of privacy … is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

“The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent.

“Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved.

“Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future.

“Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care.

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“There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it.

“In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved.

“All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation.”

Among the 7-2 majority were five Republican nominated judges while Justices Byron White, a Democratic appointee, and Republican nominee William Rehnquist, later Chief Justice, dissented.

Ultimately, the court ruled the state could regulate abortions during the second trimester and even ban it in most cases in the third.

Mr Blackmun wrote: “We do not agree that, by adopting one theory of life, Texas may override the rights of the pregnant woman that are at stake.

“We repeat, however, that the State does have an important and legitimate interest in preserving and protecting the health of the pregnant woman, whether she be a resident of the State or a non-resident who seeks medical consultation and treatment there, and that it has still another important and legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life. These interests are separate and distinct.”

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