Roe v. Wade – Visual Guide (Pt. 1/3) | Wardenclyffe Academy
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Roe v. Wade – Visual Guide (Pt. 1/3) | Wardenclyffe Academy


The Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade laid the
legal foundation for the treatment of abortion in the United States and has since become
a major flashpoint between two political factions. One considers it to be the foundational case
establishing women’s reproductive rights while the other considers it to be the foundational
case denying personhood to a class of people (i.e. the unborn). Despite these political factions frequently
invoking Roe v. Wade, many do not understand its origin, its journey from the District
Court to the Supreme Court, and the nature of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Roe v. Wade began in Dallas County, Texas,
and centered around constitutional challenges to Articles 1191-1194 and 1196 of Texas’
Penal Code brought by three parties. Articles 1191-1194 defined abortion and made
it a crime to have or attempt to have an abortion, with one exception provided by Article 1196. This exception stated that an abortion may
be performed or attempted “by medical advice for the purpose of saving the life of the
mother.” Using a pseudonym to remain anonymous during
her case, Jane Roe was a resident of Dallas County, Texas, and the primary plaintiff. She alleged that she was a pregnant and unmarried
woman who wanted an abortion performed by a competent, licensed physician under safe,
clinical conditions. She also alleged that she could not secure
an abortion in Texas since continuing her pregnancy would not threaten her life and
that she could not afford to travel to a place where an abortion could be legally and safely
provided. In 1970, Roe brought a federal action against
Henry Wade, the District Attorney of Dallas County, arguing that Texas’ criminal abortion
statutes were not only unconstitutionally vague, but also in violation of her right
to privacy protected by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. In her federal action, Roe sought two things:
a declaratory judgment that Texas’ criminal abortions statutes violated the constitution
an injunction restraining Wade from enforcing Texas’ criminal abortion statutes. Later, Roe amended her complaint to make it
a class-action lawsuit. Dr. James Hallford, a licensed physician,
was granted leave to intervene in Roe’s action. Dr. Hallford alleged that, in the past, he
had been arrested for violating Texas’ criminal abortion statutes and that he was currently
being prosecuted for two such violations. Dr. Hallford argued that Texas’ criminal
abortion statutes violated the Fourteenth Amendment due to being vague and uncertain. To support his claim, he provided examples
of when he could not determine if the patients coming to him seeking an abortion fell within
the exception provided by Article 1196. Dr. Hallford also argued that Texas’ criminal
abortion statutes violated the right to privacy guaranteed in the doctor-patient relationship
and his right to practice medicine. These rights, he argued, were guaranteed by
the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. John and Mary Doe, a married couple who also
used pseudonyms to remain anonymous, filed a companion complaint alongside Roe. According to the Does, they had no children,
were medically advised not to have children until Mrs. Doe ceased suffering from her neuro-chemical
disorder, had stopped using female birth control pills pursuant to medical advice, and would
seek an abortion by a competent licensed physician under safe, clinical conditions if Mrs. Doe
became pregnant. The Does also named Wade as the defendant,
claimed constitutional deprivations similar to Roe’s, and sought a declaratory judgment
as well as an injunction. Additionally, just like Roe, the Does would
later amend their complaint to make it a class-action lawsuit. Roe v. Wade began as two actions in Dallas
County, Texas, which challenged the constitutionality of Texas’ criminal abortion statutes. One action involved plaintiff Roe and plaintiff-intervenor
Dr. Hallford, and the other involved John and Mary Doe. These two actions were consolidated when they
were heard by a panel of three-judges in the United States District Court of Northern Texas. The District Court began by considering whether
the parties involved satisfied the requirements of justiciability and standing. Regarding Roe, the members of her class, and
Dr. Hallford, the District Court concluded that they presented justiciable controversies
and had standing. But with regards to the Does, the District
Court concluded that, given the facts they alleged, they neither presented a justiciable
controversy nor had standing. The District Court therefore dismissed their
complaint. Returning to the action presented by Roe and
Dr. Hallford, the District Court recognized a “fundamental right of single women and
married persons to choose where to have children… protected by the Ninth Amendment through the
Fourteenth Amendment,” and then ruled that Texas’ criminal abortion laws were unconstitutional
on their face due to their vagueness and their overbroad infringements of Roe and Dr. Hallford’s
Ninth Amendment rights. The District Court concluded by granting Roe
and Dr. Hallford’s requests for declaratory relief, declaring Texas’ criminal abortion
statutes void, and dismissing Roe and Dr. Hallford’s requests for injunctive relief.

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