Roe v. Wade – Visual Guide (Pt. 2/3) | Wardenclyffe Academy
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Roe v. Wade – Visual Guide (Pt. 2/3) | Wardenclyffe Academy


With neither the plaintiffs nor the defendant
satisfied with the District Court’s ruling, all parties appealed to the Supreme Court.
Roe, Dr. Hallford, and the Does appealed the District Court’s denial of their request
for injunctive relief while Wade appealed the District Court’s decision to grant the
plaintiffs’ request for declaratory relief. Similar to the District Court, the Supreme
Court began by considering whether the parties involved satisfied the requirements of justiciability
and standing, and whether abstention was warranted. Accepting as true the facts alleged by Roe,
including her situation as a pregnant single woman who was prevented from having an abortion
by Texas’ criminal abortion statutes, the Supreme Court agreed with the District Court’s
decision that Roe had standing to sue. Wade, however, raised a concern over whether
Roe still had standing to sue since, as she was no longer pregnant, the controversy of
the case technically no longer existed. And federal cases require that “an actual controversy
must exist at stages of appellate or certiorari review, and not just at the date the action
is initiated.” Unwilling to let such a rigid application
of this requirement prevent the appellate review of pregnancy litigation, the Supreme
Court prevented the termination of Roe’s pregnancy from making her case moot. The Supreme Court therefore dismissed Wade’s
argument that Roe’s case lacked standing. Dr. Hallford presented a different situation
to the Supreme Court because he was intervening in an action against statutes which the state
of Texas was using to prosecute him. The Supreme Court noted that Dr. Hallford
did not allege an inability to assert any of his federal rights in his defense against
the state’s prosecutions. The Court also noted that he did not allege harassment or
bad-faith prosecution, which are the only circumstances when a “defendant in a pending
state criminal case” may “challenge in federal court the statutes under which the
State is prosecuting him.” In order to avoid being denied standing for
challenging in federal court the statutes which the state of Texas was using to prosecute
him, Dr. Hallford sought to avoid asserting his status as a current state defendant, and
instead assert his status as a potential future defendant. Not seeing any merit in the distinction between
Dr. Hallford’s status as a current state defendant and his status as a potential future
defendant, the Supreme Court reversed that part of the District Court’s decision which
granted Dr. Hallford declaratory relief, dismissed his complaint, and sent him back to the state
court to defend himself against the State prosecutions pending against him. In regards to the Does’ case, the Supreme
Court affirmed the District Court’s decision to dismiss, citing the speculative nature
of their concerns and the inability of their case to present justiciable controversies.
Their case rested “on possible future contraceptive failure, possible future pregnancy, possible
future unpreparedness for parenthood, and possible future impairment of health,” and
that a combination of any one or more of these “might have some real or imagined impact
upon their marital happiness.” Having narrowed the parties down to only Roe,
the Supreme Court turned its attention to her case. Roe argued that Texas’ criminal
abortion statutes unconstitutionally violated her right as a pregnant woman to terminate
her pregnancy. Rather than seeking to find this right in
one section of the constitution, Roe sought to find this right in at least one of three
places: in “the concept of personal liberty embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due
Process Clause,” in the various kinds of personal privacy previously recognized as
protected by the Bill of Rights or its penumbras, or in “those rights reserved to the people
by the Ninth Amendment.” In reviewing Roe’s case, the Supreme Court
first considered whether there are any compelling state interests in regulating the abortion
decision. Their analysis revolved around answering three important questions: 1) “Has the State
regulated abortion”; 2) “If it has, why did the State regulate abortion?”; and 3)
“If the State has regulated abortion, do any of its regulatory justifications rise
to the level of legitimate state interests?” The Supreme Court answered the first question
through a brief survey of the medical and legal history of abortion in the ancient and
Anglo-American tradition. This survey revealed, among other things, that the States initially
adopted English common law which distinguished between a pre-quick and quick fetus, providing
punishments only for the destruction of a quick fetus; that, in the mid to late nineteenth
century, many of the States began eliminating these English common law distinctions, eventually
banning abortion except to preserve the life of the mother; and that, in the last several
years, one-third of the States had begun reversing this trend by enacting less stringent abortion
laws. In answering the second and third questions,
the Supreme Court identified three potential historical explanations and justifications
for the criminal abortion laws. The three historical explanations and justifications
were: 1) to discourage illicit sexual conduct, 2) to protect women from a dangerous medical
procedure, and/or 3) to protect prenatal life. Of these, the Supreme Court believed only
the second had a historical foundation. However, concerning the second and a modified version
of the third, the Court found legitimate state interests: protecting the health and safety
of the mother and protecting potential human life. Next, the Supreme Court considered whether
the right to privacy previously recognized as protected by the constitution extends to
a pregnant woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy. In addressing this issue, the Supreme Court
admitted that the constitution does not explicitly mention a right to privacy, but recognized
that previous cases acknowledged a right to privacy existing implicitly under the constitution.
These cases found the roots of a right to privacy in the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth
Amendments, in the penumbra of the Bill of Rights, and in the concept of liberty guaranteed
by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. They also found that the right
to privacy extends to matters relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family
relationships, child rearing, and education. Given these extensions, the Supreme Court
concluded that the right to privacy previously found in the concept of personal liberty guaranteed
in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment extends to a pregnant woman’s
decision to terminate her pregnancy. On a similar basis, Roe and her legal advisors
argued that a pregnant woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy is absolute. However,
the Supreme Court did not agree, citing the legitimate state interests of protecting the
health and safety of the mother and protecting potential human life as eventually becoming
compelling state interests during the course of a woman’s pregnancy. These compelling
state interests, the Court argued, qualify a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded that
the right to privacy previously recognized as protected by the constitution does extend
to a pregnant woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy, but that this right is qualified
when the legitimate state interests of protecting the health of the mother and protecting potential
human life become compelling during the course of a woman’s pregnancy.

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