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Behind Roe v. Wade and the Abortion Bills Filling the Legislative Floor

In June 2022, the Supreme Court shocked the nation when it took an originalist approach to Dobbs v. Jackson overturned the right to abortion at the federal level. Over 400 bills in the last month have attempted to restrict access to abortion. New approaches are being taken: punishing the doctors who partake in abortion operations. 


In states like Wyoming, doctors that provide medication for abortion can be penalized to five years. These punishments are similar to laws in Texas that have been active since 1857. Another state like Iowa takes a more severe approach where doctors that provide abortion pills can face up to 10 years in jail.


Unfortunately, the legal protections granted in the 1970s have been repealed by the Supreme court and local courts. The right to life versus the right to choose has been a long-standing debate within the United States since the 1973 case, Roe v. Wade. In Roe v. Wade, a single pregnant woman, Norma McCorvey –whose pseudonym is famously Jane Roe –, wanted an abortion in Texas. She lived a complicated life before shaping the laws of a nation. 


Norma McCorvey was born in 1947 in Simmesport, Louisiana. From the outset of her life, it proved to be difficult. Her only guiding influence was her alcoholic single mother and she repeatedly got into trouble. When McCorvey came out to family at 12 years old, she allegedly ran away with another girl who would claim she was forced to go by McCorvey. Soon after, McCorvey was sent away to reform school. She returned from reform school at 16 years old. She got married. She wanted stability. All of this was meant to adjust to the heteronormative norms at the time. It doesn’t last long. 


She marries and becomes pregnant until she is divorced before the baby is born. The reasons for the divorce are not widely known. Before the divorce, McCorvey claims that her husband was abusive. These claims were later found to be lies. However, they do allow McCorvey to give custody of her firstborn child – a daughter – to her mother. While this is occurring, her stable living doesn’t last long. Eventually, she left her husband and began to work as a prostitute. After becoming pregnant with a second child, she gave up the child for adoption in 1967. Two years later, she would be pregnant again. However, she was interested in having an abortion. In effort to receive an abortion, she eventually begins to seek legal help. Instead, she finds little solace. Meanwhile, two lawyers were actively searching for a plaintiff. Those two lawyers were Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee.


Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee are not interested in making abortion only acceptable to McCorvey. Instead, they want to change the restrictive laws regarding abortion. These restrictive laws were initially created in 1857 under the “offences against persons or individuals” with a 2-year to a 5-year sentence if one participated in abortion.

Multiple reasons prompted the anti-abortion crusade. One would be the campaign by Horatio Storer who was concerned about the high immigration numbers in the US and the decline of native-white born births. The most significant consequence of the medical field slowly becoming an enterprise considering that women on average were having a child roughly every two years. At the time, the only exception was if the abortion would save the life of the pregnant woman. Unfortunately, that is still the case. Abortion was only available in Texas when life-threatening circumstances were applicable. Little has changed regarding abortion accessibility. Prior to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, many abortion clinics in Texas reduced operations.


Edited by: Maria Cornejo

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