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The Decades-Long Battle Behind Roe v. Wade | Legal Milestone in History

Story Highlights
  • Where it all Began
  • The Opposition
  • Mississippi’s Middle Path
  • Texas’ Bulldozer

The overturning of Roe v. Wade in June of 2022 in the Supreme Court of the United States carried a great deal of controversy and protests that continue today. The case is riddled with politics and has caused an extensive debate between the political left and right about women’s right to choose what they do with their bodies and what constitutes a life.

However, our interest is in the case and its proceedings. When explored in some detail, it is plain to see that the overturning occurred by exploiting several legal loopholes. But firstly, what was Roe v. Wade?

Where it all Began

Roe v. Wade was a landmark case of the US Supreme Court in 1973. Under the alias “Jane Roe, ” Norma McCorvey” instituted federal action against the District Attorney of Dallas county, Texas. She pleaded that the law criminalizing abortion is unconstitutional as it violated a woman’s constitutional right to privacy.

The court decided in favor of Roe; however, it disagreed with her claim that abortion should be universally allowed and added some conditions. After the decision, women could freely receive abortions in the first trimester, and afterward, the state may enforce some regulations. The end of the second trimester would constitute a viable pregnancy.

With this decision, prohibiting abortions before the 24th week of pregnancy became unconstitutional, and any such law could be challenged in the courts.

The Opposition

Conservatives, of course, disagreed with Roe v. Wade vehemently. Many conservative majority states tried to enforce fetal-heartbeat statutes, which restrict abortions beyond the point when the fetus displays a heartbeat, usually during the 6th week of pregnancy, but could not, as it was unconstitutional. There were still two instances where the conservatives managed to sidestep this.

Mississippi’s Middle Path

In 2018, Mississippi lawmakers enforced a law prohibiting abortions beyond the 15-week mark. Unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, it could be quickly challenged in the courts. However, for a law to be questioned in the courts for being unconstitutional or otherwise illegal, it must first be passed and enforced, and this law was.

The Mississippi lawmakers had an ace up their sleeves. The majority of justices sitting on the Supreme Court bench were conservatives. The law would be challenged in the Supreme Court, but that is what they wanted as it would turn the tables in their favor ifavorSupreme Court decided. For context, the Supreme Court’s decision on a particular issue becomes applicable to all future cases under the principle of precedent.

To no one’s surprise, Roe v. Wade was overturned, the prohibition of pre-viable pregnancies was deemed constitutional, and many Southern states enforced this prohibition.

Texas’ Bulldozer

Texas enforced the fetal-heartbeat law and thus made all abortions beyond week six illegal, with no exceptions for rape or incest. What made this different from other states’ implementation of this law is that Texas shifted the responsibility of law enforcement to individuals.

The state had nothing to do with enforcing it. However, if any citizen were to witness any other aborting a pregnancy or “aiding and abetting” in the performance of such, they could file a civil lawsuit against them. The defendant would then have to pay $10,000 to the plaintiff in damages, and if they managed to defend their case successfully, they would not be reimbursed for legal costs, as is the case in almost any other kind of civil proceedings.

There are two issues associated with this. Firstly, it makes no sense how this constitutes a civil lawsuit. The plaintiff’s rights are not being infringed; thus, it is incomprehensible why they have the right to sue the defendant.

Secondly, as the state officials are not responsible for enforcing the law, they can presumably not be brought to any court as defendants if the law is challenged—as already mentioned, gross exploitation of legal loopholes. Still, through different means, related judgments were challenged in the Supreme Court, but the bench decided by a slim majority (5-4) not to intervene in the issue.

Whatever your standpoint on the politics associated with this entire case, it cannot be denied that many of the ways this case is proceeding violate the law’s sanctity and legal processes. A majority of a political group in the Supreme Court has allowed these violations. And it must be understood that these poorly written laws now force women to carry inviable pregnancies even after being raped, simply because getting the medical solution has become illegal.

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