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What did Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decide?

In the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 7-2 that the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects the rights to life, liberty and property, entailed a “right to privacy” that included the right for a woman to procure an abortion up until “the point at which the fetus becomes ‘viable’.”

Roe effectively overturned all existing state laws against abortion. While it did allow for some limitations on when abortions could be obtained, these limitations were effectively nullified in Roe‘s companion case, Doe v. Bolton.

In Doe, the court ruled 7-2 that abortion for “the health of the mother” could not be restricted, while adopting a very broad definition of “health” that included such factors as the woman’s emotional well-being and age. Doe effectively made abortion legal at any point, for almost any reason.

Both Roe and Doe were overturned in the United States Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

See also What did Dobbs v. Jackson decide?


Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).

Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973).

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 597 U.S. 215 (2022).

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