Was the decision in Roe vs. Wade correct?Based on the constitutional arguments and precedents, was the decision regarding Roe v Wade correct or incorrect?

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Whether Roe vs. Wade was correct or incorrect is a matter of opinion; it is, however settled law supported by precedent. While one may disagree with the decision, it is the law of the land. The point is perhaps best illustrated by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who said "The Constitution is what the judges say it is."

In Roe vs. Wade the Supreme Court held that the right to privacy and the guarantee of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment allows a woman the right to an abortion; however as with other constitutional rights, this one must be balanced against the rights of the unborn child, the right of the state to protect the woman's health and the unborn child. The Court further ruled that the longer the length of the pregnancy, the greater the interest of the state in regulating the right to terminate that pregnancy. Under the original decision, a woman had an absolute right to an abortion during her first trimester of pregnancy, and no right during the third; the second trimester was to be determined by balancing the interests of the state and the mother.

In a later decision, the Court rejected the trimester rule in favor of a "viability rule, stating that the right to abortion existed until such time as the child was viable, meaning

potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid,

Again, one may disagree with the decision on moral, legal or constitutional grounds; however it is settled law and to that extent is "correct."  

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the risk of engaging in a battle of semantics, I must re-iterate that Roe vs. Wade is settled law. Stare decisis (let the precedent stand) is hardly a suggestion. If that were the case, then every decision by every court in the nation would only be a "suggestion." It is a universally accepted fact, upon which I will stake my 20 years experience as a practicing attorney, that once a case is decided by the highest court of competent jurisdiction, the decision becomes settled law. This was the case in Roe vs. Wade. The above post mentions Plessy vs. Ferguson. Onerous as that decision was, it was settled law--and abided by--for sixty years. Until such time as the Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom, decides to reverse, modify, or overturn the Roe decision, it remains settled law.  All judges in the nation are bound by the decision. It is hardly a suggestion. 

Furthermore, the decision was based on the Justices interpretation of the constitution. I do not see "judicial activism vs. judicial restraint" as an issue here. The entire purpose of the case was to determine, once and for all, if a woman had a constitutional right to an abortion. Agree or disagree, the Court held that in certain circumstances she does. That is--and remains--settled law.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't agree that the fact that it is settled law makes it correct.  Any Supreme Court decision is the law, that is true.  But any Supreme Court can overturn a previous decision whenever it wants.  Stare decisis is not an absolute rule, just a suggestion.

In additon, just because the Supreme Court said something is law does not mean it will always be settled law.  The Plessy v. Ferguson case was settled law for over 50 years and then it wasn't when it was overruled by Brown.

Whether Roe was correct depends on your attitude towards the issue of judicial activism vs. judicial restraint.  You can certainly argue that it is correct because (and this is something that the previous post does not mention at all) there does seem to be a right to privacy that is implied in such things as the 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendments.  However, this is only implied.  It is never actually stated.  If you think that judges should change the Constitution as society changes, this is probably a correct decision.  However, if you believe that judges should just go by what is actually in the Constitution and leave the rest to the elected branches, this is not a good decision.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do agree with the decision.  It's impossible to take the Constitution literally in all respects more than two centuries after it was written.  This is not the same nation or society, nor are the values which we hold important exactly the same, and without the right to define our society in a way which we currently, on the whole, believe is just, then what is a democracy good for?  Defining life in a legal sense (and it has to be defined in order to apply the laws, be they abortion laws or not) is absolutely necessary, and this is what the court did in Roe v. Wade.  That is not judicial activism, that is what courts do: interpret the laws.  The decision also clearly draws a line between government authority and individual privacy that, like the definition of life, is absolutely necessary.

belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It was absolutely the correct decision. The freedom to make choices based on options is the basis of what we think of as true individual freedom, and without the choice to make a medical procedure safe and legal, women were forced to seek out help from unqualified or dishonest doctors, or even ordinary people with no training. Legalizing abortion has saved countless women from death from infection, blood loss, or botched treatment. Until Congress convenes to overturn the law, I have no problem with it, and I would not support a motion to overturn it myself. Women who want abortions are going to get them no matter what we do, and it is better to make them safe and legal. Also, I think this is a long-dead issue, and we should focus on more important problems instead of endlessly debating a done deal.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think #6 makes an excellent point by stating that the consitution is about upholding the rights that we have, and we definitely should have the right to decide what happens to our bodies and what medical procedures we undergo. The problem with this is that we can find ourselves in a position of conflict. What happens when our rights conflict with the rights of an unborn child in our womb? Whose rights are greater, or can we even use this line of thinking when the death of that unborn child will result? This ruling therefore leaves many questions unanswered in my mind.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the decision in Roe vs Wade was constitutional.  Any law has wide reaching implications.  The precedents are set as each law is settled.  Think of the implications if Roe vs Wade were reversed.  It is not just about abortion but about rights.  I believe we have a right to decide what medical procedures we undergo.  We have a right to decide what we do with our own bodies.  Roe vs Wade upholds this idea.  The judges had to decide about more than just abortion.  They had to decide what our fundamental rights are as human beings and citizens of this country.