IN 1973, THE Supreme Court handed down its landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion. The court's 7–2 ruling invalidated state laws concerning abortion and made a woman's decision to have an abortion a constitutionally protected right until fetal viability, so long as she made the decision to abort in consultation with her physician. The ruling helped improve public health, changed the lives of many women, and has proven enormously controversial to this day. It spawned new interest groups, reshaped national politics, and has affected stem cell research.

The case involved the challenge by “Jane Roe” to a Texas law that prohibited abortions except when necessary to save a woman's life. This, it was argued, had deprived the plaintiff of her fundamental right to ...

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