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Roe v Wade, District Attorney of Dallas County [1973] 410 US 113

By Oxbridge Law TeamUpdated 21/04/2024 20:28

Judgement for the case Roe v Wade, District Attorney of Dallas County


  • State criminal abortion statutes are laws regulating or prohibiting abortion procedures within a state. They outline when abortions are legal and the penalties for violations.

  • A pregnant woman is someone carrying a developing fetus. Pregnancy involves physical, emotional, and social changes, with decisions about healthcare, childbirth, and abortion being significant.

  • Standing to challenge refers to the right to bring a lawsuit. In abortion cases, it requires a direct connection to the law in question, like being pregnant and seeking an abortion, or being a healthcare provider facing prosecution.


  • In the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, an unmarried pregnant woman sought a declaratory judgment against the Texas criminal abortion statutes, which only allowed abortions in cases where they were deemed necessary to save the life of the mother. 

  • She also requested an injunction against the enforcement of these statutes. Simultaneously, a physician, facing pending prosecutions for alleged violations of the same statutes, intervened in the case.

  • In a separate but similar action, a married, childless couple filed a complaint expressing their desire to terminate a future pregnancy by abortion. However, the court dismissed their complaint, ruling they lacked standing to sue.

  • The District Court, comprising three judges, consolidated the two actions. They determined that the unmarried pregnant woman and the physician had standing to sue, but the married, childless couple did not. The court ruled against abstention concerning the declaratory judgment.

  • The District Court held that the right to choose whether to have children was protected by the Ninth Amendment, as applied through the Fourteenth Amendment.

  • Consequently, they deemed the Texas criminal abortion statutes void on the grounds of being unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. However, the court denied the application for injunctive relief under the abstention doctrine.


  • In the appeal to the United States Supreme Court:

    1. The District Court's decision regarding the physician-intervenor was reversed, leading to the dismissal of his complaint.

    2. The Court affirmed the District Court's judgment in all other aspects, including:

    3. Granting standing to the pregnant, unmarried woman.

    4. Dismissing the complaint of the childless, married couple for lack of a justiciable case.

    5. Acknowledging states' legitimate interests in ensuring safe abortions.

    6. Recognizing a woman's right to privacy in deciding to terminate her pregnancy, albeit not absolute.

    7. Determining that the state may regulate abortions to safeguard maternal health and, after viability, may prohibit them except to preserve the mother's life or health.

  • The Court held that the physician should pursue remedies in state court proceedings.

  • While some justices concurred with aspects of the decision, others dissented, arguing against the Court's interpretation of constitutional rights and the role of states in regulating abortion.


  • This case encapsulates the legal journey surrounding abortion laws in the United States, focusing on a case in the Northern District of Texas and its appeal to the Supreme Court.

  • It outlines the significance of state criminal abortion statutes, the complexities of pregnancy decisions, and the necessity of standing to challenge such laws.

    • The case involved an unmarried pregnant woman challenging Texas’s abortion statute, with a physician intervening due to pending prosecutions.

    • A married, childless couple's complaint was dismissed for lack of standing.

  • The District Court's ruling, recognizing standing for the pregnant woman and physician, declared Texas's abortion statutes unconstitutional but denied injunctive relief, set the stage for the appeal.

    • The Supreme Court reversed the District Court's decision on the physician's intervention.

    • Still, it affirmed other aspects, including granting standing to the pregnant woman, dismissing the couple's complaint, and acknowledging states' interests in abortion regulation.

  • In its decision, the Court showed a woman's privacy rights in abortion decisions, and states' authority to regulate maternal health and viability.

    • It directed the physician to pursue remedies in state court.

    • Dissenting opinions reflect ongoing debates over constitutional rights and state regulation.

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