Pick a side in the case – Roe v. Wade, 410 US 113 (1973) and either defend or ask for an appeal. Please use the facts from the original holding and point out how the social climate has either...

Pick a side in the case – Roe v. Wade, 410 US 113 (1973) and either defend or ask for an appeal. Please use the facts from the original holding and point out how the social climate has either changed or is the same.

Expert Answers
Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I will defend the decision in Roe v. Wade

Here is the wording that began the suit:

"A pregnant single woman (Roe) brought a class action challenging the constitutionality of the Texas criminal abortion laws, which proscribe procuring or attempting an abortion except on medical advice for the purpose of saving the mother's life." 

In the intervening years since the 1971 decision, public rhetoric has gone from being vehemently in favor of the Supreme Court's findings to being emphatically against it. The "pro life" movements we know today have become increasingly more vocal over the last forty years. The press, too, has become overtly skeptical and critical of a woman's right to choose, and moreover, federal intervention in that choice.  In 2005, Bejamin Witte, writing for The Atlantic Monthly called the decision "deeply unhealthy" for the nation. On the Washington Post's Op-ed page, William Saletan (now the national correspondent for Slate.com) called the decision "obsolete." 

Why do we still need Roe? A move to severely restrict a woman's rights by individual states, despite the law of the land, tells the story.  

In Texas, the state now has made it so that only a very few abortion clinics are still in operation. The new law mandates, first, that "all abortion providers must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital" and secondly that "all abortion clinics must become ambulatory surgical centers." 

A lawsuit was filed to try to stop these requirements from becoming reality. Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights explained why. "We filed this lawsuit to stop the second-largest state in the nation from plunging millions of women back into the darkness and grave danger of illegal abortion that Roe v. Wade was supposed to end." 

In hopes of stopping the bill, Senator Wendy Davis strapped on her pink athletic shoes and filibustered it on the floor of the Texas Senate for eleven consecutive hours. Although her effort brought national attention, ultimately, she was unsuccessful in stopping its passage and the bill is now Texas law. 

Going back to the original decision, we can consider Item 3, which reads: 

State criminal abortion laws, like those involved here, that except from criminality only a life-saving procedure on the mother's behalf without regard to the stage of her pregnancy and other interests involved violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman's qualified right to terminate her pregnancy. Though the State cannot override that right, it has legitimate interests in protecting both the pregnant woman's health and the potentiality of human life, each of which interests grows and reaches a "compelling" point at various stages of the woman's approach to term.

Women who remember the days before abortion was legally and readily available have horrific stories to recount. "Kathleen" tells her story in the book Back Rooms: Voices from the Illegal Abortion Era by Ellen Messer and Kathryn May:

"Probably the only thing that gave me the strength to have the abortion was that I felt that I would just as soon die as be trapped into poverty and motherhood, and that's what it would have been. I didn't think it would have been a fair life for a child or a mother."

Cheryl's story is terrifying. It was 1971, but Roe had yet to pass. Instead, here is what happened to her:

My boyfriend and I went to the doctor's office. We were asked to pay the cash when we walked in. I asked again about anesthesia, and I was told of course, not to worry. On the table, undressed, I was given a shot in my thigh and told it was anesthesia. It turns out that it was actually a strong antibiotic. I was held down by the nurse, with a gag in my mouth to "bite down on." With my legs in the stirrups, the doctor performed the D&C. It hurt unbelievably and I screamed into the gag as the nurse held me down. I saw the nurse carry the bloody bowl out of the room. I was given some pills to take at home and I was told not to call any other doctor for 2 weeks. 

There are thousands, perhaps millions, of stories like Kathleen's and Cheryl's, some even more graphic. The truth is that women who do not wish to carry a child will seek abortions. In 1971, the Roe decision made those choices much more safe for women. Making access harder and more restrictive will not end those choices; instead, lack of safe access will lead to renewed horror stories and deaths of women who need not have died.