Roe v. Wade Overturned: How the Supreme Court Let Politicians Outlaw Abortion (2023)

Roe v. Wade Overturned: How the Supreme Court Let Politicians Outlaw Abortion (1)

The Supreme Court has eliminated the federal constitutional right to abortion — but we’re not backing down. We’re taking every step we can to keep abortion accessible for all people.

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  • What IsRoe v. Wade?
  • How Roe Was Overturned
  • Even BeforeRoe, Abortion Was Common
  • The Effect of Roe: Safe, Legal Abortion
  • The Campaign to Overturn Roe
  • Americans Want Abortion to Be Legal

What IsRoe v. Wade?

Roe v. Wade is the U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States in 1973. Safe, legal abortion remained a recognized federal constitutional right nationwide for nearly 50 years.

From the start Roe v. Wade was flawed. It did say people had the right to abortion, but it never protected people's access to abortion. Lots of states passed laws that made getting an abortion nearly impossible. And in 1976, the Hyde Amendment, a national policy widely viewed as racist, became law.

How RoeWas Overturned

For years, anti-abortion rights politicians promised to appoint judges and justices hostile to abortion rights. At every turn, these politicians used their power to manipulate the nomination rules. Now, the Supreme Court is dominated by justices who are hostile to abortion rights.

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — a case involving a challenge to a. Mississippi ban on abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy. The ruling overturned Roe — ending the federal constitutional right to abortion in the United States.

As a result, one in three women now live in states where abortion is not accessible. In the first few months after Roe was overturned, 18 states banned or severely restricted abortion. Today more states are working to pass bans.

The abortion bans that have taken effect since June 2022 have inflicted harm on Black, Latino, Indigenous, and other communities of color — communities where systemic racism has long blocked access to opportunity and health care

Find Out Where You Can Still Get an Abortion

Visit for a directory of trusted, verified abortion providers and a state-by-state guide.

Get the Facts

Abortion Has Always Been Common

Abortion has been around way longer than the United States government. Common law allowed abortion prior to “quickening” — an archaic term for fetal movement that usually happens after around four months of pregnancy. Medical literature and newspapers in the late 1700s and early 1800s regularly referred to herbs and medications as abortion-inducing methods; outlawing abortion only became a cause among U.S. politicians in the late 1800s.

Bans followed, with abortion illegal in all states by 1910. These bans pushed providers and patients into the shadows. Outlawing abortion completely failed to eliminate it; instead, the bans turned a safe health care practice into one with great legal risks. It subjected otherwise law-abiding people to surveillance, arrest, investigation, prosecution, and other criminal penalties. Police were often men, and their investigations forced women into humiliating circumstances — ordering them, their partners, and others to reveal personal details about their sex lives. Beyond direct criminal penalties, people lost jobs and families were disrupted.

With bans threatening their livelihoods and freedom, many doctors and midwives stopped providing abortion — and some started reporting their colleagues who still provided. Women who couldn’t afford to pay the few providers offering abortion, or who felt afraid of criminal charges, sometimes tried dangerous methods of self-managing abortion. When such methods led to complications and forced women to go to the hospital, patients could be reported to the police.

The Effect of Roe: Safe, Legal Abortion

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973, decriminalized abortion nationwide. It protected the right to access abortion legally all across the country, and freed many patients to access the care they needed when they needed it — without fear.

“[T]he "liberty" protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment covers more than those freedoms explicitly named in the Bill of Rights… Several decisions of this Court make clear that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment… That right [to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion] necessarily includes the right of a woman to decide whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

Concurring Opinion in Roe v. Wade, by Justice Potter Stewart (Jan. 22, 1973)

For Many, Restrictions and Racism Pushed Abortion Out of Reach

Even with Roe in place, many people in the United States found that for them, the right to abortion was a right in name only.

Systemic racism, ongoing white supremacy, and coercive reproductive health policies undercut access to abortion in many communities even before Roe was overturned. Before 2022, whether you could actually get an abortion depended on your race, where you lived, and your access to money and health insurance.

For communities where centuries-old barriers have stood in the way of access to health care — Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities, rural communities, immigrant communities, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ folks, young people, and people with low incomes — abortion was challenging to access.

With Roe overturned, abortion for many in these communities has been pushed even further out of reach.

The Campaign to OverturnRoe

While some states did everything they could to restrict access to abortion, for almost five decades the Supreme Court honored Roe’s core principle: that the Constitution protects a person's right to make their own private medical decisions, including the decision to have an abortion prior to fetal viability. The court reaffirmed constitutional protection of abortion access in multiple key abortion rights cases, including Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

So what changed? The makeup of the Supreme Court. Between 2016 and 2020, anti-abortion politicians in the Senate and White House angled to install three new Supreme Court justices — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett — with records hostile to reproductive health and rights.

Americans Want Abortion to Be Legal

Abortion is common and accepted — and the data proves it.

  • Nearly 1 in 4 women in America will have an abortion by age 45.

  • Overturning Roe v. Wade was unpopular — and politically toxic for anti-abortion politicians. 85% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal.

  • Regardless of age, background, or education level, the majority of people supported Roe before it was overturned.

  • Acceptance of abortion is longstanding: A majority of Americans have wanted abortion to be legal for decades.

  • Reproductive rights champions in states across the country have worked to protect and expand access to abortion.

Beyond the numbers, personal stories show how abortion is essential health care — no matter the reason.

Find Out Where You Can Still Get an Abortion

Visit for a directory of trusted, verified abortion providers and a state-by-state guide.

Get the Facts

Not Backing Down

You deserve access to health care, including abortion, without barriers or political interference. You deserve the right to control your own body no matter where you live or how much money you make.

Planned Parenthood will work to get patients to care and care to patients. At the same time, Planned Parenthood supporters and abortion rights advocates are fighting for everyone to have the freedom to make their own decisions about their bodies and their lives.

Join the Fight

There’s no time to waste. Become part of the BANS OFF OUR BODIES movement.

Bans off Our Bodies


What happened with the Supreme Court ruling on Roe versus Wade? ›

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decided that the right to privacy implied in the 14th Amendment protected abortion as a fundamental right. However, the government retained the power to regulate or restrict abortion access depending on the stage of pregnancy.

What does Roe vs Wade law overturned mean? ›

The decision overturned the longstanding Constitutional right to abortion and eliminated federal standards on abortion access that had been established by earlier decisions in the cases, Roe v.

Why did Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade? ›

Archon Fung. On Friday, the Supreme Court determined that women do not have a Constitutional right to choose whether to terminate their pregnancies and overturned the 50-year precedent established in Roe v. Wade.

How many justices voted to overturn Roe? ›

Trump nominated three of the five conservative Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. That trio provided the margin of victory in the decision, which revoked the constitutional right to abortion that had existed for nearly a half-century.

How does Roe v. Wade affect women's rights? ›

Overturning Roe v Wade allowed the divided individual states to independently decide the legal parameters regarding abortion care. A decision that disproportionately effects the reproductive lives of women residing on the land of America.

What is Roe vs Wade for dummies? ›

The Roe v. Wade Ruling, 1973. In its 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court recognized that the right to liberty in the Constitution, which protects personal privacy, includes the right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy.

What amendments did Roe v. Wade violate? ›

Facts of the case

In her lawsuit, Roe alleged that the state laws were unconstitutionally vague and abridged her right of personal privacy, protected by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

Can the Supreme Court be overruled? ›

When the Supreme Court rules on a constitutional issue, that judgment is virtually final; its decisions can be altered only by the rarely used procedure of constitutional amendment or by a new ruling of the Court. However, when the Court interprets a statute, new legislative action can be taken.

What did the Supreme Court justices vote on abortion? ›

The Supreme Court on Friday eliminated the constitutional right to obtain an abortion, casting aside 49 years of precedent that began with Roe v. Wade. The decision by Justice Samuel Alito will set off a seismic shift in reproductive rights across the United States.

What judges overturned Roe? ›

In Dobbs, five justices voted to overturn Roe — Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas. A sixth, Chief Justice John Roberts, balked at overturning Roe but voted to uphold the Mississippi abortion restrictions in question. All six were raised Catholic.

Who did Jane Roe sue? ›

In 1970, Jane Roe (a fictional name used in court documents to protect the plaintiff's identity) filed a lawsuit against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas, where she resided, challenging a Texas law making abortion illegal except by a doctor's orders to save a woman's life.

What day did Roe v. Wade get overturned? ›

On Friday, June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark piece of legislation that made access to an abortion a federal right in the United States. The decision dismantled 50 years of legal protection and paved the way for individual states to curtail or outright ban abortion rights.


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