It has been 45 years since the monumental Supreme Court decision that granted women access to safe, legal abortion in the United States. Anti-abortion activists have been trying to overturn Roe v. Wade since 1973, and on the anniversary of the famous case, many are sharing their thoughts on the Roe v. Wade and the future of women's reproductive rights under the current administration.
Although Trump had been pro-choice earlier in his life, he came out in staunch opposition to abortion during his presidential campaign. In March 2016, Trump infamously said that women deserve “some form of punishment” for abortion. He later clarified, saying he meant doctors, not women, should be “held legally responsible.” In October of the same year, Trump vowed, if elected, to appoint judges who’d overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.
Roe v. Wade is often called a defining example of "judicial activism." Harvard Law Professor Michael Klarman, an expert on constitutional law and history, says that by handing down the decision the way it did, the Supreme Court overturned abortion laws in 46 states and opened the floodgates for a wave of opposition that has never abated. Whether you're pro-choice or anti-abortion, many say the decision was arrived at and enacted poorly.
"By placing strong protections on abortion rights instead of finding a possible compromise or middleground, such as limiting abortions to the first trimester, the decision sparked extreme resistance fueled by images of fetuses late in the second trimester."Roe put the court on the wrong side of public opinion by extending the right beyond what the public was willing to accept.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, perhaps the court's most ardent champion of reproductive rights, has consistently voted to defend abortion. Yet, even Ginsberg has acknowledged Roe v. Wade was grounded in a shaky interpretation of the constitutional right to privacy—she prefers abortion rights be recognized under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
It’s not that she opposes the holding that recognizes a right to an abortion. It’s that she opposes the logic of the 1973 court’s majority opinion and the constitutional basis under which seven justices arrived at their conclusion.
“Roe isn’t really about the woman’s choice, is it?” the Clinton-appointed justice said last May at the University of Chicago Law School. “It’s about the doctor’s freedom to practice … it wasn’t woman-centered, it was physician-centered.”
But whether or not there is a strong constitutional basis for Roe v. Wade, the fact remains it has been the law for 45 years in the United States, despite countless legal challenges.
For many, including conservatives, stare decisis (Latin for “to stand by things decided") or the doctrine of precedent, weighs heavily as to whether or not the decision should be overturned. A law's longevity matters. Even the conservative Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch agreed during his Senate confirmation hearings that "Roe vs. Wade" is the "law of the land."
On January 19, Trump became the first sitting president to address the annual March for Life.
"The March for Life is a movement born out of love. You love your families, you love your neighbors, you love our nation, and you love every child, born and unborn, because you believe that every life is sacred, that every child is a precious gift from God."
"As you all know, Roe vs. Wade has resulted in some of the most permissive abortion laws anywhere in the world... Under my administration, we will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life."