His Appointment Stanley v. Georgia (1969) Dandridge v. Williams (1970) Roe v. Wade (1971)
Milliken v. Bradley (1974) Regents of the Univ. of CA v. Bakke (1978) Cruzan v. Director MO Dept. of Health (1989) Perry v. Louisiana (1990)

Roe v. Wade (1971)

    Abortion is today and has been for many years a very controversial issue. Roe v. Wade was brought to the Supreme Court by a woman who claimed that she had been gang-raped and was pregnant as a result. She wanted to terminated her pregnancy, but under Texas law was not allowed to do so unless her own life was at stake. (It was discovered later that she submitted the case under an alias and that the rape had not actually occurred; she had an unwanted pregnancy and wished to get rid of the Texas law.) The case was brought in 1969, but arguments were scheduled for 1971.

  The fundamental questions in the abortion debate were, and still are: Is a fetus a person, and if so, what are its rights? Under what circumstances, if any, should abortions be allowed?1 At one side of the debate were those who believed that from the moment of conception, an unborn child did have the right to live; others believed that the child had no rights and did not truly exist until it was capable of living outside the motherís womb. In answer to the second question, most states had laws that permitted abortions when the life of the mother was at stake, or if rape or incest had led to the pregnancy. The Courtís majority opinion was written by Blackmun, whose own daughter had had an abortion and who was well acquainted with the issue. Attempting to appease both sides, he divided the pregnancy into three trimesters. During the first trimester, a womanís right to an abortion was absolute based on a constitutional right to privacy. During the second trimester the state was allowed to regulate abortion but only to protect the motherís health, and by the third trimester an abortion was only permitted if the motherís life was at stake. Marshall agreed with this proposal, but broke with the majority on the issue of whether the state was required to fund abortions. In the next abortion case, Beal v. Doe, the court upheld a Pennsylvania law that women only received funding for abortions to save the motherís health. This to Marshall was clearly discrimination; rich women could afford to pay for their own abortions, where poorer women could not. Thus the disadvantaged women would most likely give birth to a child who was unwanted, which would result in ďa bare existence in utter misery for so many poor women and their children.Ē1

1 Warrior at the Bar, Rebel on the Bench (p343)