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Studies in Law and Medicine

Where Are We Now: The Supreme Court Decisions Ten Years After Roe v. Wade

Americans United for Life published “Studies in Law and Medicine” in the 1970s and 1980s, spotlighting issues pertaining to the human right to life across the bioethics spectrum. As Americans United for Life celebrates our 50th anniversary, we are making these issues available for the first time since their print publication.

Where Are We Now: The Supreme Court Decisions Ten Years After Roe v. Wade by Paige Comstock Cunningham, Thomas J. Marzen, and Maura K. Quinlan

Barely ten years after the Supreme Court’s sweeping decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion virtually on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy, the Court handed down a trio of opinions that reaffirmed its original abortion rulings. On June 15, 1983, the Court ruled on challenges to abortion regulations in Missouri, Ohio, and Virginia. A six-member majority of the Court struck down substantial portions of the requirements on the ground they unreasonably infringed upon a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion.  

The Court’s action left few legislative doors open. Informed consent provisions, the real heart of abortion regulation and deterrence-were invalidated wholesale. Minor statutory changes may still slip through the cracks. But legislative efforts to give a pregnant woman full information about her abortion decision have been shut down.  

The 1983 cases are not total defeats. The obvious victory is the forceful dissent of the sole woman on the Court: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Joined by Justices Rehnquist and White, her strong stand may signal that the reversal of Roe v. Wade is near. Two more pro-life votes would ensure the demise of Roe.