Roe v. Wade Turns 40

Roe v. Wade turns 40 today, and we're recapping the landmark case's past, present, and future impact.

Roe vs. Wade
(Image credit: Archives)

It's been 40 years since Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that first extended a woman's right to have an abortion, and the case is still very much prevalent in today's political and social conversation. For those who need a refresher, the case began in 1969 when a Texas woman, then pregnant with her third child, attempted to obtain an abortion first under false allegations of rape and, when that failed, by means of an illegal abortion. The case (in which the woman used the alias Jane Roe) eventually made its way to the Supreme Court where, three years later, the Court deemed abortion a fundamental right under the Constitution.

Roe v. Wade is often referred to as being the first notable marker of the women's rights movement in American society. To deny the right of abortion is, to many, to instill obligatory motherhood and to disregard a woman's right to control her own body. The case initiated a moral and religious debate that, to this day, reflects the rights of womanhood.

The decision of Roe v. Wade has had a substantial role in subsequent political decisions, including the most recent election's so-called "War on Women." Because abortion is such a moral issue, the likelihood that the debate surrounding it will continue is quite high. Despite one's individual views on abortion itself, Roe v. Wade — both then and now — represents a decision in which supporting women's rights was the focal point, and that is a difficult stance with which to argue.