Roe v. Wade (1973), the ruling that made abortion legal in the United States, is one of the most controversial Supreme Court cases in U.S. history. Everyone has an opinion on Roe v. Wade.
But very few people know exactly what it was that the Supreme Court majority opinion, written by Associate Justice Harry Blackmun, actually says. Sophisticated and devastatingly cogent, it makes the pro-choice argument as well as any ruling could have in 1973.
The fact that it's a Supreme Court ruling, full of footnotes and case history, makes it less accessible than, say, an op-ed column would be. So what I've done, on the following pages, is strip away all of the footnotes and most of the dry case history and provide the heart of the case.
On the following pages you will see actual excerpts from the Roe v. Wade majority ruling, presented in the order in which they appeared in the ruling. Other than the deletion of text and footnotes, the occasional use of parentheses to summarize deleted text, and the use of bolded text to highlight key phrases, the selections you're about to read will be in the Court's own words.
The Roe v. Wade decision presents a formidable argument in favor of the Supreme Court's decision in the case, and an argument that is still absolutely central to the abortion debate in our country.