National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1970-1987: We wrestle with our democratic freedoms, arguing issues old and new

January 22, 1973
In Roe v. Wade, the Court overturns state prohibition of abortions

Norma McCorvey,

“The right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, but…this right is not unqualified and must be considered against important state interests in regulation.”
—Justice Harry A. Blackmun
Roe v. Wade

“Jane Roe” didn’t set out to change the Constitution; she just wanted a legal abortion in Texas. By 1971, several states had liberalized abortion laws. Texas hadn’t.

Roe’s lawyers challenged the Texas law, claiming a constitutional right to privacy—a right broad enough to cover a woman’s decision to continue or terminate her pregnancy.

The Supreme Court agreed, saying that such a right is part of the “liberty” protected by the 14th Amendment. Today the Court struck down all state limitations on abortion in the first three months of pregnancy.

This decision sparks a heated debate that’s likely to burn for years to come.

Read about it in the New York times

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