An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

Prior to Roe v. Wade (1973), many states banned almost all abortions. Texas, for example, made it a crime to perform an abortion unless the procedure was needed to save the mother’s life. Norma McCorvey, who had a healthy pregnancy, could not qualify for that exemption. McCorvey believed that Texas law permitted a woman to get an abortion if she was raped. (It was unclear if the law had such an exemption.) As a result, she told the police she was raped. However, McCorvey later admitted that she had fabricated the allegation. She also attempted to obtain an illegal abortion, but the clinic had already been shut down. Eventually, two attorneys recruited McCorvey to serve as the lead plaintiff to challenge Texas’s law. She filed the suit under a pseudonym, Jane Roe.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court. Roe’s attorney argued that Texas’s abortion law was unconstitutional under the Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

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