Roe v. Wade

410 U.S. 113 (1973)


Roe (P), a single pregnant woman, challenged the Texas abortion laws. She sought declaratory and injunctive relief against Wade (D), who was a county district attorney, to prevent enforcement of these laws. The Texas statute almost completely banned abortions, making abortion a crime. She claimed that the Texas statutes were unconstitutionally vague and that they abridged her right of personal privacy, protected by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Roe purported to sue 'on behalf of herself and all other women' similarly situated. James Hubert Hallford, a licensed physician, sought and was granted leave to intervene in Roe's action. He alleged that he had been arrested previously for violations of the Texas abortion statutes and that two such prosecutions were pending against him. He alleged that the statutes were vague and uncertain, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that they violated his own and his patients' rights to privacy in the doctor-patient relationship and his own right to practice medicine, rights he claimed were guaranteed by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. John and Mary Doe, a married couple, filed a companion complaint to that of Roe. The Does alleged that they were a childless couple; that Mrs. Doe was suffering from a 'neural-chemical' disorder; that her physician had 'advised her to avoid pregnancy until such time as her condition has materially improved' (although a pregnancy at the present time would not present 'a serious risk' to her life); that, pursuant to medical advice, she had discontinued use of birth control pills; and that, if she should become pregnant, she would want to terminate the pregnancy by an abortion performed by a competent, licensed physician under safe, clinical conditions. By an amendment to their complaint, the Does purported to sue 'on behalf of themselves and all couples similarly situated.' The district court invalidated the statutes but did not give P injunctive relief. The two actions were consolidated and heard together by a duly convened three-judge district court. The court held that Roe and members of her class, and Dr. Hallford, had standing to sue and presented justiciable controversies, but that the Does had failed to allege facts sufficient to state a present controversy, and did not have standing. It concluded that, with respect to the requests for a declaratory judgment, abstention was not warranted. On the merits, the District Court held that the fundamental right of single women and married persons to choose whether to have children is protected by the Ninth Amendment, through the Fourteenth Amendment, and that the Texas criminal abortion statutes were void on their face because they were both unconstitutionally vague and constituted an overbroad infringement of Ps’ Ninth Amendment rights. The court then held that abstention was warranted with respect to the requests for an injunction. It, therefore, dismissed the Does' complaint, declared the abortion statutes void, and dismissed the application for injunctive relief. Appeals from both sides resulted. The Fifth Circuit ordered the appeals held in abeyance pending decision at the Supreme Court.