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Roe v. Wade

On January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision, Roe v. Wade, recognizing the constitutional right to privacy and a woman’s right to make her own personal medical decisions, without interference from politicians. Forty years later, Americans are still standing by this decision — with 7 in 10 Americans believing Roe v. Wade should remain the law of the land. 

In 1965, illegal abortions made up nearly one-fifth of all pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths. In the 40 years since Roe v. Wade blocked states from banning abortion, it has been one of the safest medical procedures — today, less than 0.3 percent of women undergoing legal abortions sustain a serious complication. Despite abortion being legal, constitutionally protected, and consistently supported by a majority of Americans, opponents of women’s health have made it increasingly harder for women to access it. In states such as Texas, South Dakota, Florida, and Michigan some politicians have eroded access to safe and legal abortion through court battles, ballot measures, and burdensome legislative restrictions.

In 2007, in a 5–4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the federal abortion ban passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2003. Although Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land, the ban criminalizes abortion procedures in the second trimester of pregnancy that doctors say are often the safest and best to protect women's health. Thus, the ruling allows politicians to make medical decisions that should be made by women in consultation with their families, their faith, and their doctors. Meanwhile, anti-women’s health legislators continue to try and chip away at women’s health and rights in the states, in some cases hoping to serve as a direct challenge to Roe.

As the nation’s leading women’s health care provider and advocate, Planned Parenthood knows firsthand why it’s so critical that women have access to a comprehensive range of reproductive health care services. For almost a century, Planned Parenthood health centers have been providing professional, nonjudgmental, and confidential health care and information to keep women healthy and prevent unintended pregnancies.

To protect their health and the health of their families, women must have access to safe, legal abortion services without interference from politicians. From courthouses to statehouses to Capitol Hill, Planned Parenthood works to protect access to health care for women across the country — taking action to ensure that women have access to care, no matter what.

Download our fact sheet for more information on the impact of Roe v. Wade here.