What the Roe vs. Wade Ruling Stated:

Justice Harry A. Blackmun, in writing for the majority, based the ruling on the right to privacy, stating that a Texas law criminalizing abortion infringed upon the Ninth and 14th amendment rights of the plaintiff.

"This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action ... or in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy," Blackmun wrote.

"The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent," Blackmun wrote, stating possibilities of a "distressful life and future" forced upon a woman as well as "psychological harm", risks to her "mental and physical health" and "additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood".

Blackmun added: "There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is a problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it."

Blackmun, however, ruled that a woman's right to an abortion is not absolute, writing that a state "may properly assert important interests ... in protecting potential life.":

The other six judges concurring were Warren E. Burger, William O. Douglas, William J. Brennan, Potter Stewart, Thurgood Marshall and Lewis F. Powell.

Justice William H. Rehnquist, along with Byron R. White, filed the dissenting opinion in which Rehnquist criticized the right of privacy argument in the ruling:

"I have difficulty in concluding ... that the right of privacy is involved in this case ... the Court's sweeping invalidation of any restrictions on abortion during the first trimester is impossible to justify under that standard."

"To reach its result, the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently unknown to the drafters of the Amendment."

Posted 6/9/99