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40 Years Of Roe v. Wade: What Happened? And What Comes Next?
Provided by Family Research Council

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution provides a right to have an abortion in one of its most controversial decisions in history. More than 50 million unborn children have been aborted since Roe was decided on Jan. 22, 1973.


Polls provide conflicting data as to where Americans stand on this issue, largely because many Americans don't understand Roe or what overruling it would mean. Many young people are not even familiar with the name Roe v. Wade, though everyone knows what abortion is. But many who know Roe's name misunderstand what it provides, or why overruling it would restore democratic control on this hot-button issue.

Justice Harry Blackmun wrote the opinion in Roe v. Wade in a 7-2 decision, with Justices Byron White (appointed by Democrat Jack Kennedy) and William Rehnquist (appointed by Republican Richard Nixon) dissenting. The Court built on its 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut which held the Constitution contains a right to privacy, holding in Roe that this means the Constitution also provides a right for a woman to terminate a pregnancy by ending the life of her unborn child.

This took abortion out of the hands of the American people. Before 1973, abortion was a state issue, not a federal issue. And it was an issue Americans in the 50 states could freely debate, and decide which laws on the issue reflected their wishes and values.