Scarcely any constitutional issue provoked more controversy in the last half of the twentieth century than the issue of whether the U.S. Constitution protected a woman's right to obtain an abortion. On some issues during this period, such as racial segregation, the Supreme Court was able to guide the country toward an ultimate consensus. However, on the issue of abortion, the Court was unable to accomplish such closure. The two major political parties partially defined themselves by reference to their respective attitudes toward this question, often using the abortion issue as a litmus test for their evaluation of potential Supreme Court justices. Protesters marked the anniversary of the Court's original abortion decision with vigils in front of the Court. Legislators, both federal and state, proposed an endless series of laws that would restrict or at least discourage abortions. In the last decade of the twentieth century, the Court stood by its original declaration that the right to abortion was protected by the Constitution. Nevertheless, the Court redefined the standard to be used in evaluating laws relating to abortion with the effect of increasing the ability of state and federal lawmakers to regulate in this controversial area.
- Last updated on March 25, 2021
Description: Intentional expulsion or removal of the fetus from the womb except for the purpose of accomplishing a live birth or removing a dead fetus from the womb.Significance: With its controversial decision in Roe v. Wade (1973), the Supreme Court declared that women had the right to have an abortion, which it later interpreted to prohibit laws that unduly burdened a woman's ability to choose an abortion until the third trimester of pregnancy.
Categories: Supreme Court