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How the court’s 3 liberal justices closed their dissent

The US Supreme Court just overturned Roe v. Wade, holding that there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion. 

Here’s a look at the details of the now-overturned case:


1971 – The case is filed by Norma McCorvey, known in court documents as Jane Roe, against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, who enforced a Texas law that prohibited abortion, except to save a woman’s life.


Jan. 22, 1973 – The US Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, affirms the legality of a woman’s right to have an abortion under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The court held that a woman’s right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy (recognized in Griswold v. Connecticut) protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision gave a woman the right to an abortion during the entirety of the pregnancy and defined different levels of state interest for regulating abortion in the second and third trimesters.

The ruling affected laws in 46 states. Full-text opinions by the justices can be viewed here.

Legal Timeline

  • 1971 – The Supreme Court agrees to hear the case filed by Roe against Wade, who was enforcing the Texas abortion law that had been declared unconstitutional in an earlier federal district court case. Wade was ignoring the legal ruling and both sides appealed.
  • December 13, 1971 – The case is argued before the US Supreme Court.
  • October 11, 1972 – The case is reargued before the US Supreme Court.
  • January 22, 1973 – The US Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, affirms the legality of a woman’s right to have an abortion under the Fourteenth amendment to the Constitution.
  • June 17, 2003 – McCorvey (Roe) files a motion with the federal district court in Dallas to have the case overturned and asks the court to consider new evidence that abortion hurts women. Included are 1,000 affidavits from women who say they regret their abortions.
  • September 14, 2004 – A three-judge panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans dismisses McCorvey’s motion to have the case overturned, according to the Court’s clerk.
  • May 2, 2022 – In a stunning breach of Supreme Court confidentiality and secrecy, Politico has obtained what it calls a draft of a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito that would overturn Roe v. Wade’s holding of a federal constitutional right to an abortion. The opinion in the case is not expected to be published until late June. The court confirms the authenticity of the document on May 3, but stresses it is not the final decision.

The Players

McCorvey – Texas resident who sought to obtain an abortion. Texas law prohibited abortions except to save the pregnant mother’s life. McCorvey was pregnant when she became the lead plaintiff in the case. She gave up the baby for adoption.

McCorvey has since come forward and spoken against abortion. In 1997, McCorvey started Roe No More, an anti-abortion outreach organization that was dissolved in 2008. McCorvey died on February 18, 2017. In the 2020 documentary “AKA Jane Roe,” prior to her death in 2017, McCorvey told the film’s director that she hadn’t changed her mind about abortion but became an anti-abortion activist because she was being paid.

Henry Wade – District attorney of Dallas County from 1951 to 1987. McCorvey sued him because he enforced a law that prohibited abortion, except to save a woman’s life. He died on March 1, 2001.

Sarah Weddington – Lawyer for McCorvey

Linda Coffee – Lawyer for McCorvey

Jay Floyd – Argued the case for Texas the first time

Robert C. Flowers – Reargued the case for Texas

Supreme Court Justice Opinions

  • Majority: Harry A. Blackmun (for The Court), William J. Brennan, Lewis F. Powell Jr., Thurgood Marshall
  • Concurring: Warren Burger, William Orville Douglas, Potter Stewart
  • Dissenting: William H. Rehnquist, Byron White

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