A Summary of Roe v. Wade: The Landmark Ruling & Its Legacy Explained

Activist Norma McCorvey (a.k.a. Jane Roe) and lawyer Gloria Allred raise their arms at a rally outside the United States Supreme Court Building, Washington DC, April 26, 1989. Credit: Mark Reinstein/Corbis/Getty Images

It wouldn't be much of a stretch to claim that Roe v. Wade remains one of the most controversial court cases in American history. Nearly half a century after the Supreme Court ruling, which prohibited states from banning abortion, Americans still remain largely divided on the case’s outcome. Nearly 50 years after the landmark ruling, the fight to either protect or overturn Roe v. Wade is still a frequent campaign cornerstone. And, in the wake of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September 2020, many pro-choice Americans began to fear that Roe v. Wade might be revisited, and threatened, in the near future by a decidedly conservative court. Even if you know the name of the court case, it’s time to take a deeper dive into the history of Roe v. Wade — and why the ruling remains so essential to this day.

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