January 22nd should be a day to celebrate Roe v. Wade’s landmark ruling and look back on how far abortion rights have come in the United States. Instead, we find ourselves in unprecedented times where the right to an abortion is being challenged across the country. 15 states have now passed extremely restrictive abortion laws with very limited exceptions. These laws have not stopped pro-abortion advocates as they continue the fight against these egregious restrictions on the right to an abortion.
On January 22nd, 1973, the Supreme Court announced their decision in Roe v. Wade, siding with “Jane Roe,” the anonymous woman who filed the lawsuit. The court struck down a Texas law that made it a crime to perform an abortion, leading to a federal constitutional right to abortion in the United States.
“Jane Roe” was actually a woman named Norma McCorvey, who was denied an abortion in 1969 because her pregnancy didn’t pose any medical risk. In the 1950s and 1960s, an estimated 200,000 to 1.2 million illegal abortions were performed each year. Abortion was completely banned in 30 states and restricted in 22 more. McCorvey was denied an abortion because of Texas’s restrictive anti-abortion laws and ended up placing the baby for adoption. So, with the help of a friend, she met with a group of Texas lawyers, led by Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, who wanted to challenge the abortion ban in the United States. After three years, the case finally made its way up to the Supreme Court, where a new precedent was set and abortion was legalized. The landmark decision made the medical procedure more accessible to those who needed safe and easy access to an abortion.
Now, on the cusp of the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are witnessing reversal after reversal of abortion protections. On June 24th, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade through their Dobbs v. Jackson decision, overruling 50 years of precedent and setting off a wave of abortion bans across the country.
Texas is just one of the states reinstating previous extreme bans on abortion. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on January 2nd, 2024 that emergency abortions can be banned in the state of Texas, despite federal guidelines, in the case Cox v. Texas.
When Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two from Dallas, learned her fetus had a fatal diagnosis, she filed for an emergency court order to access an abortion in the state. While Texas’s abortion ban ban does have exceptions, they are written so unclearly that many healthcare providers. will not perform abortions as to avoid criminal prosecution. Cox ended up leaving the state to get an abortion, but not before facing serious physical and mental health struggles from forced pregnancy.
President Biden and Vice President Harris are set to address the critical state of abortion rights on January 23rd in a rally in Manassas, Virginia. They are expected to speak about the rise of abortion bans across the country and the impact on women in these states, making reproductive rights a critical focus of the November election.