Roe V Wade and Doe V Bolton
Justin Frazer Dr. Bryce Jones BSAD 234 4/10/13 Abortion is a hot debate topic. So naturally, it has generated many disputes and court cases. Two of the most famous and definitive court cases regarding abortion are Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton. Both of these cases were ruled on at the same time. Both cases resulted in landmark decisions that would change how many states were allowed to regulate abortion. These rulings also help put into view the line between law and morals. Roe v Wade Jane Roe” was actually a pseudonym for the plaintiff, Norma McCorvey. She used this for protection and also to emphasize that she was fighting for all pregnant women. The defendant was Henry Wade, district attorney for Dallas County, Texas. McCorvey’s claim was that the Texas abortion law, passed in 1859, violated her constitutional rights. Backstory: Norma McCorvey, age 21, became pregnant in 1969. She did not want to continue with her pregnancy, as her marriage had failed and her first daughter was in the care of her mother and stepfather.
As previously stated, Texas passed a law in 1869 preventing all abortion, excluding cases in which the woman’s life was in danger. She met Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, two attorneys who were interested in changing the abortion law. There were two issues standing in the way: McCorvey might not have standing because the abortion law only applied to women who performed abortions, not to those who needed them. The second issue was if she passed the point in her pregnancy where it was safe to perform an abortion, the case would become irrelevant.
Their argument: in a previous case, Griswold v Connecticut, Justice William O. Douglas interpreted the Ninth Amendment to mean that any rights not explicitly granted to the government were retained by the people; previously it had been taken to mean that those rights were retained by the states. At the time of this case, this meant that all previously banned contraceptives between couples were now legal. Weddington and Coffee could argue that this “right to privacy,” as Douglas defined, should also be applied to abortion.
The first reply from Assistant D. A. John Tolle, defending D. A. Wade, claimed exactly what they had expected: “Jane Roe” had no standing since the law only affected women who performed abortions. An anonymous affidavit from McCorvey submitted to a three-judge panel on May 22, 1970, stated that she wanted to terminate her pregnancy due to “the economic hardship which pregnancy entailed and because of the social stigma attached to the bearing of illegitimate children. At the hearing, Weddington argued on Roe’s standing to sue, as well as the constitutionality of the abortion statute (on the grounds of the First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments). After the defense argued for the unborn fetus as a child, a life, Weddington brought up the issue of the impossibility to define when “life” begins (which is still one of the main arguments between pro-life and pro-choice advocates). Finally, Tolle argued that right of a child was more important than the woman’s previously stated “right to privacy. However, the three judges found that the Texas abortion laws were unconstitutional by depriving rights dictated by the Ninth Amendment. Since this only declared the law unconstitutional and did not prevent the enforcing of the law, the plaintiffs then appealed to the Supreme Court. In October 1972, the plaintiffs and the defendants made their cases as they had before. Several things played into the Court’s following decision: the ruling of Eisenstadt v Baird, which made it legal for unmarried persons to use birth control.
This solidified Weddington’s argument for the right to privacy in the Ninth Amendment; that individuals have the right to be free from government intervention in matters such as whether or not to have a child. Second, Justice Harry Blackmun, after reviewing the abortion statutes, ruled that they were no longer valid because they were put in place due to the dangers of abortion; this was no longer an issue, as abortion was just as safe as childbirth in the present time. Concerning the rights of the unborn as a child, Blackmun found that nowhere in the
Constitution or Bill of Rights (specifically, the Fourteenth Amendment) a “person” includes the unborn. The final ruling: the abortion decision must be left to the judgment of the woman’s doctor in the first trimester. In the second trimester, the state may “regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably valid to maternal health. ” After that, the state can regulate or stop the abortion. Summary Norma McCorvey wanted an abortion, but could not obtain would since it was illegal in her state, Texas.
Most states at the time had abortion statutes in place proscribing abortion. She, under the alias “Jane Roe,” and the two attorneys representing her, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, filed a suit against the county of Dallas on the grounds that the abortion laws violated a woman’s right to choose under the “right to privacy,” interpreted in the Ninth Amendment in the previous case Connecticut v Griswold. The district court ruled in favor of “Roe,” basing judgment upon the Ninth Amendment.
This ruling did not prevent the enforcement of the abortion laws; rather, it merely stated that they were unconstitutional. McCorvey and her attorneys, now not only representing “Jane Roe” as a person, but as all women, appealed directly to the Supreme Court. On the opposing side, there was the fact that the state believed they had the responsibility to protect the life of the unborn child. The argument against that was this: “when does life really start? ” It could be said that life doesn’t begin until after the child is born; not when it is still a fetus.
This really sparked this debate that still goes on today. Justice Harry Blackmun found that, after reviewing the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Founding Fathers never explicitly put the unborn with the “persons” protected under our nation’s documents. However, he said that this was not absolute. He said that, though he agreed that the Ninth Amendment encompassed a woman’s right to choose whether or not to terminate her pregnancy, the right to choose was also not absolute.
So, they came to a compromise: during the first trimester of a pregnancy, abortion was legal, but at the judgment of the woman’s doctor (which has changed since then). During the second trimester, the state could regulate abortions in a way that is related to maternal health. During the third trimester, the state could proscribe abortions. The general rule was that if the fetus is able to live outside the womb (with artificial aid), which was typically at about 28 weeks, then the woman no longer has a right to an abortion. This entire case and the decisions that were made is a landmark in our history.
It has sparked much debate and divided many people into “pro-life” and “pro-choice” groups. Doe v Bolton A companion case to Roe v Wade, Doe v Bolton was an abortion case that happened in Georgia around the same time (decision on the same day) that its Texas counterpart did. Much like other states with abortion laws, Georgia only allowed abortion if: the pregnancy was a danger to the woman’s life by judgment of a licensed physician, the fetus was in danger of being born with a serious defect, or if the abortion was a product of rape (§ 26-1202(a)).
The woman wanting an abortion also had to qualify for the following conditions, defined under § 26-1202(b) of Georgia Criminal Code: “the abortion [is to] be performed in a hospital accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, the procedure be approved by the hospital staff abortion committee, and the performing physician’s judgment be confirmed by independent examinations of the patient by two other licensed physicians. ” Sandra Cano, a mother of three, did not meet any of these conditions. Under the pseudonym “Mary Doe,” she and her attorney, Margie Pitts Hames, sued Arthur K.
Bolton, the Attorney General for Georgia. Their claim was that the abortion statute of Georgia was unconstitutional. Like “Roe,” the three-judge panel of the district court found that Doe did, in fact, have standing in this issue. They ruled that the first three conditions (§ 26-1202(a)) listed above were unconstitutional, but they upheld the medical approval and residency requirements. In addition, like Roe v Wade, they merely provided that the section of the law was unconstitutional; they did not give any injunction against enforcing the law.
This is called declaratory relief. The plaintiffs then appealed directly to the Supreme Court, like Roe and her attorneys. The arguments and counter-arguments were all the same as in Roe v Wade. The Court found that the three conditions in section 26-1202(b) were unconstitutional. They found that the JCAH accreditation requirement did not pertain to the woman’s right, and did not reasonably relate to the abortion statute. The two conditions requiring the abortion to be approved by a committee and by two other physicians were found to not serve the woman’s health in any way.
The committee condition violated the woman’s “right to receive medical care” from her physician, and the two-doctor condition violated the physician’s “right to practice. ” These conditions were struck down. Justice Blackmun, mentioned in the previous case, said that Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton must be read together. The former allowed the states to proscribe abortion in the third trimester. However, Doe v Bolton added that the abortion could still be allowed if it was a matter of the woman’s health, in the opinion of the woman’s doctor.
This is essentially a loophole around the “viability” requirement of the ruling of Roe v Wade. Doe v Bolton and Roe v Wade together struck down state abortion laws and struck up heated debates. These were the first real challenges regarding abortion in the United States. Both declared abortion a constitutional right. Summary Sandra Cano (“Mary Doe”) and attorney Margie Pitts Hames sued the state of Georgia for its unconstitutional abortion statute. The district court found they had standing, but like Roe v Wade, they gave them only declaratory, not injunctive, relief.
The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court for broader relief. Georgia’s Criminal Code, section 26-1202(b), stated that in addition to the requirements to receive an abortion that a woman must be in danger from the pregnancy, the child must be in danger of severe defect from birth, or the pregnancy being a result of rape, any woman wanting an abortion had to receive one in a hospital accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, she had to receive permission of two physicians other than her own, and the decision must also be approved by a hospital committee.
The Court struck all of these requirements as unconstitutional. Additionally, the Court ruled that a woman may obtain an abortion after “viability” (as defined in Roe v Wade) if it was necessary to preserve her health. Along with its companion case, Roe v Wade, the decision was made on January 22, 1973, that abortion was a constitutional right.