Probably the most debated right that the Court has recognized relates to whether a woman has a right to terminate her pregnancy. In Roe v. Wade (1973), the Court found that a woman’s right to make this decision was indeed a fundamental right protected by the Constitution. Competing with this right of the woman is the state’s interest in maternal health. The Court in Roe established the time during which the state could not prevent a woman from having an abortion (i.e., during the first trimester of the pregnancy) and the time during which the state could place restrictions on abortions (i.e., after the first trimester).

Critics have attacked Roe since the decision was handed down, often on the grounds that it represents judicial activism at its worst. On the other hand, supporters have defended the decision with equal vigor on the basis that it represents one of the more important rights of women. Subsequent cases, especially Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992), have diluted Roe to a large extent, even though the basic holding of Roe has remained intact.

Inside Abortion