How Roe v. Wade was overturned

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By Staff Writer

Eleanor C. v. Wade

New York Times

In 1962, the highest court in the land ruled in Roe v. Wade that states had no power to prohibit abortions. But nine years later, in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the court essentially reinstated Roe.

The Supreme Court applied a 1978 ruling, Griswold v. Connecticut, which held that the states could not force unmarried couples to subsidize the birth of children out of wedlock.

Griswold, which rendered a similar verdict for unmarried couples, was rejected in its application to abortion by the state of New York because the woman in that case had merely initiated a pregnancy.

The court said that because “a child is a child and the procreative process is an activity of great personal and moral significance,” the state could not deny insurance coverage to unmarried couples. The court said that because the Constitution “rejects moral judgments on the part of the State about the nature of the human race, it necessarily rejects moral judgments by the State about the nature of abortion.”

Kennedy, who spearheaded the Casey decision, would have done the same for a state refusing insurance coverage for abortion, allowing the decision to stand. In 1967, he wrote a dissent to the court’s ruling. It would have invalidated Griswold.

He said states should be allowed to “ban abortion on demand, in any fashion, or not at all,” saying that since they would not be in the best interest of the woman involved, the courts should not sit by and allow this to happen.

There is no doubt that his reasoning behind Casey would have been identical to Kennedy’s in Roe. Yet, when asked if the Roe decision should be upheld because of his personal views on the issue, Kennedy told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1992 that “the Court shouldn’t be making those choices for us, the people.”

His references in Casey to “the moral significance of abortion,” and to the children created by the act, could have easily served as the same rationale for his reasoning behind the Casey decision.

Pell v. Normes

Neal M. Katyal, JD, DL


A 1982 case, which was heard in the Supreme Court in 1983, was the first involving an individual challenging the constitutionality of the University of Michigan’s abortion law.

The four justices who had previously ruled that a woman could not be required to subsidize the health insurance of her child of an unmarried parent allowed Anna Marie Normes to remove the unmarried person from the household as the guardian of the child, making her the only relative involved in the proceeding.

In the ruling, Chief Justice Warren Burger had no love for the woman herself, but said that “the current Roe v. Wade abortion ruling requires us to get to the bottom of each of these affected cases before arriving at a final decision. This approach leads us to the outcome in the McCullen case.”

However, even with this case thrown out at the 3rd Circuit level, in 1989, the Supreme Court would eventually consider the issue once again.

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