Roe v. Wade

On January 22, 1973, seven men on the U.S. Supreme Court struck down more than 30 state bans on abortion, and legalized abortion in all 9 months of pregnancy, for whatever reason, across the United States. Regardless of whether you know their names, these historic decisions, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, have affected your life. Abortion advocates argue that legal abortion is necessary for women’s liberation… but what has Roe really done for us?

Women’s Health & Safety

Consider just the impact that abortion has on a woman’s health:

  • Suicide rates among post-abortive women are 6 times higher compared to those who give birth and 2 times higher compared to those have a miscarriage.(1)
  • Abortion increases the risk of placenta previa in later pregnancies by 30%. (Placenta Previa can lead to life-threatening hemorrhages before and after birth.)(2)
  • Abortion increases the risk for breast cancer. According to the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, from 1957-2018, 60 studies have shown a positive association of increased breast cancer riskOne of the most prominent of these was conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, which found that the risk of breast cancer was 50% higher among those who had an abortion after their first pregnancy. (3 & 4)
  • Increased risk for pre-term delivery in future pregnancies. Pre-term delivery significantly increases the risk of infant death and disabilities such as cerebral palsy. (5)

Read more about abortion risks here.

In reality, it is only the abortion industry that benefits from Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. For example, Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion chain, committed almost 345,672 abortions in 2018-2019, their largest annual total ever, and more than any other vendor. From those abortions, they made an estimated $1.6 billion dollars. And Planned Parenthood has mandated that each of its affiliates are required to commit abortions and meet abortion quotas.(7) For more on how Planned Parenthood profits off of you, go to

Did Roe Make Abortion Safe?

In 1972, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 39 women died from illegal abortion and 24 died from legal abortion. While every death is a tragedy, this is a far cry from thousands of women per year. In fact, according to Mary Calderone, former director of Planned Parenthood, an estimated 90% of all illegal abortions were committed by licensed physicians in good standing.(8) According to the CDC, “for 1972–2000, a total of 470 abortion-related deaths were reported in the 2001 abortion MMWR Surveillance Summary.” (9) (To view the relevant table, click here.) All Roe did was move the “abortion” sign from the back of the doctor’s office to the front.

The truth is that there is nothing safe about legal abortion. Even though abortion was illegal (until 2018) in Ireland, the country consistently boasts one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world according to the UN, UNICEF, and WHO (#1 in 2005, #3 in 2008). The 1989 ban on abortion in Chile was correlated to a near complete reduction in abortion-related maternal mortality. In 2008, Chile had the second lowest maternal mortality rate in the Americas. And despite having the world’s most liberal abortion laws, the U.S. has the highest maternal death rate of any industrialized nation and lags behind 30 developed countries for mothers’ well-being.(10)

The Danger Continues

There is nothing safe about legal abortion. Abortion will always be dangerous for women and bad for their health. Roe has done nothing to change that. Legal abortion has not made abortion clean or safe. Abortionists like Kermit Gosnell and Douglas Karpen are butchering women in dirty facilities. They are the norm for the abortion industry, not the exceptions. Women are physically & psychologically hurt (and even killed) by legal abortion. At the country’s most dangerous abortion facility, St. Louis Planned Parenthood, nearly 80 women have been sent to the ER with confirmed medical emergencies in the last 10 years alone. Read more about unsafe Planned Parenthood facilities.

Learn more about other unsafe abortion facilities here.

Legal abortion enables men to cover up abuse of women and coerce them into having abortions, and abortion facilities have repeatedly been caught covering up sex trafficking and statutory rape. We need to be offering real support and options for women experiencing unplanned pregnancies – not worsening their situations.

Roe v. Wade Was Built on Lies

The pro-abortion scare tactics that “thousands of women will die when abortion is made illegal” are false. The majority of pre-Roe abortions were not committed in back-alleys and the abortion industry has admitted that it completely made up the lie that tens of thousands of women died every year from illegal abortion. When abortion is illegal again, there will not be an epidemic of women dying from abortion.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, co-founder of NARAL, was one of the doctors fighting to legalize abortion in 1973. He himself committed over 75,000 abortions – even killing one of his own children himself. Dr. Nathanson was complicit in lying to legislators about how many women were dying in back alley abortions. He wrote,

“In NARAL, we generally emphasized the frame of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always 5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year. I confess that I knew that the figures were totally false and I suppose that others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the ‘morality’ of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?”

Later in life, Nathanson had a change of heart and renounced his pro-abortion beliefs. He wrote extensively on the error of his ways and exposed many valuable secrets about the abortion lobby’s strategies and falsehoods that led to Roe v. Wade. He is also responsible for narrating the pro-life documentary, “The Silent Scream.” He passed away in 2011.

Norma McCorvey, otherwise known as “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, was another key player in the abortion ruling. The abortion lobby had been looking for someone to use as a pawn in their mission to legalize abortion. In her lawsuit, Norma claimed to have become pregnant as the result of rape and argued that she should therefore be allowed to have an abortion, despite the laws against abortion in her home state of Texas. She gave birth to the child and placed her with an adoptive family before Roe v. Wade’s passage. McCorvey remained a pro-choice activist for several years afterward.

After publicly identifying herself as Jane Roe, McCorvey became friends with advocates in the pro-life movement, including Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. Her book, Won By Love, recounts how the compassion pro-lifers showed to her brought her into the pro-life movement. McCorvey has admitted to the many fabrications in the Roe v. Wade case, including her claim to have been raped, and became an outspoken pro-life advocate. In 2005, she asked the United States Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade on the basis of new evidence showing that abortion hurts women. (11) McCorvey passed away in 2017.

Legal Analysis of Roe v. Wade

In Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), the U.S. Supreme Court held “unduly” restrictive state regulation of abortion to be unconstitutional, resulting in de facto legalization of abortion through all nine months of pregnancy in the entire United States. In a 7–2 vote the Supreme Court held that a set of Texas statutes criminalizing abortion in most instances violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy, which the court found implicit in the liberty guarantee of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The case began in 1970 when Jane Roe (a fictional name used to protect the identity of Norma McCorvey) instituted federal action against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas county, Texas, where Roe resided. The court disagreed with Roe’s assertion of an absolute right to terminate pregnancy in any way and at any time and attempted to balance a woman’s right of privacy with a state’s interest in regulating abortion. Writing for the majority, Harry A. Blackmun noted that only a “compelling state interest” justifies regulations limiting “fundamental rights” such as privacy and that legislators must therefore draw statutes narrowly “to express only the legitimate state interests at stake.” The court then attempted to balance the state’s distinct compelling interests in the health of pregnant women and in the potential life of fetuses. It placed the point after which a state’s compelling interest in the pregnant woman’s health would allow it to regulate abortion “at approximately the end of the first trimester” of pregnancy. With regard to fetuses, the court located that point at “capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb,” or viability.

Repeated challenges since 1973, such as Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), have narrowed the scope of Roe v. Wade but have yet to overturn it. In Gonzales v. Carhart 550 U.S. 124 (2007), the Supreme Court upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 (18 U.S.C. § 1531), which prohibited a gruesome abortion procedure known as intact dilation and evacuation.

Students for Life Has Displays on This Topic

If you’d like to start conversations about Roe v. Wade on your campus, contact your Regional Coordinator by emailing [yourstate] to request an SFLA display. These displays change a lot of minds about Roe v. Wade


    1. Gissler M, Hemminki E, Lonnqvist J., Suicides after Pregnancy in Finland, 1987-94: Register Linkage Study, British Medical Journal. 313:1431 (1996).
    2. J.M. Thorp et al., Long-Term Physical and Psychological Health Consequences of Induced Abortion: Review of the Evidence, OBSTET. & GYNECOL. SURVEY 58(1): 75 (2003).
    3. American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ABC Link: Induced abortion and Subsequent Breast Cancer (2010), available at J.R .Daling, et al., Risk of Breast Cancer Among Young Women: Relationship to Induced Abortion, 86 J. NAT’L CANCER INST. 1584-92 (1994). J. Brind et al., Induced Abortion as an Independent Risk Factor for Breast Cancer: A Comprehensive Review and Meta- Analysis, 50 BRIT. J. EPIDEMIOLOGY & COMMUNITY HEALTH 481-96 (1996).
    4. Breast Cancer Prevention Institute studies:—publications.html
    5. J.M. Thorp et al., Long-Term Physical and Psychological Health Consequences of Induced Abortion: Review of the Evidence, OBSTET. & GYNECOL. SURVEY 58(1): 75 (2003). W.M. Callaghan, The Contribution of Preterm Birth to Infant Mortality Rates in the U.S., PEDIATRICS 118(4): 1566 (Oct. 2006); B. Rooney & B.C. Calhoun, Induced Abortion and Risk of Later Premature Births, J. AM. PHYSICIANS & SURGEONS 8(2): 46, 46-27 (2003).
    6. Planned Parenthood Federation of America 2011-2012 Annual Report:
    7. Johnson, Abby. The Hill, “Exposing the Planned Parenthood business model,” April 4, 2011:
    8. Mary Steichen Calderone.  Illegal Abortion as a Public Health Problem. American Journal of Public Health and the Nations Health: July 1960, Vol. 50, No. 7, pp. 948-954.
    9. Accessed February 25, 2014.
    10. Accessed February 25, 2014.