Roe v. Wade



A person may choose to have an abortion until a fetus becomes viable, based on the right to privacy contained in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Viability means the ability to live outside the womb, which usually happens between 24 and 28 weeks after conception.


The law in Texas permitted abortion only in cases where the procedure was necessary to save the life of the mother. When Dallas resident Norma McCorvey found out that she was pregnant with her third child, she tried to falsely claim that she had been raped and then to obtain an illegal abortion. Both of these efforts failed, and she sought the assistance of Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who filed a claim using the alias Jane Roe for McCorvey. (The other named party, Henry Wade, was the District Attorney for Dallas County.)

McCorvey gave birth to her child before the case was decided, but the district court ruled in her favor based on a concurrence in the 1965 Supreme Court decision of Griswold v. Connecticut, written by Justice Arthur Goldberg. This concurrence had found that there was a right to privacy based on the Ninth Amendment of the Constitution. However, the district court refrained from issuing an injunction to prevent the state from enforcing the law, leaving the matter unresolved.