Roe versus Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) was a milestone decision made back in 1973 by the United States Supreme Court. This court of nine justices then ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s freedom to choose to have an abortion.
The Supreme Court of the United States is made up of nine justices - one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. Today the Honorable John G. Roberts Jr. is the 17th Chief Justice of the United States. There have been 103 Associate Justices in the Court’s history. Nine are chosen to balance the power of voting issues. The members of this court, the highest in the nation, have lifetime appointments. This serves as a way to ensure they are not swayed by public opinion or other political issues that may arise.
This current case came to light as the nation’s highest court decided to take the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenged a Mississippi law that banned abortion after 15 weeks.
On June 24, 2022, The Supreme Court of the United States overturned this law of 1973 in a vote of 5-4. Since 1973 Roe Versus Wade had permitted women the right to choose abortion during the first two trimesters of pregnancy in the United States.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” according to U.S. Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepen division. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
This landmark decision allows states to choose to impose restrictions on abortions. It is expected that about half of the states in the United States will outlaw or restrict abortion as a consequence of this current law being overturned. Millions of people throughout the nation will be affected, many may choose to cross state lines to seek reproductive health care.
New Jersey presently has a Governor that supports women’s right to choose. Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill in January of 2022 that preserves the legal right for women to choose for their own bodies and their health care. His ability to do this is based on a 1982 state Supreme Court law named Right to Choose v. Byrne. This is seen as an even more protective ruling than Roe versus Wade in 1973.
The Right to Choose v. Byrne case came from a challenge to a law that the Medicaid program was only permitted to pay the cost of abortion only if the pregnancy threatened the mother’s life. In 1982 the Supreme Court struck down the law, calling “the right to choose whether to have an abortion...a fundamental right of all pregnant women, including those entitled to Medicaid reimbursement for necessary medical treatment.”
For clarification in understanding, the Medicaid program is funded jointly by states and the federal government. It provides health coverage to millions of Americans, including low-income adults, children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities.