The Day Abortion Was Legalized


On January 22, 1973, the well-known Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade was decided by a 7-2 vote. This decision permitted women to undergo an abortion procedure up to viability, the first six months of pregnancy. This landmark decision overturned all state laws pertaining to abortion.

Most people are familiar with this case. Liberal politicians state that abortion is legal any time up to delivery because Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. Although the first part is true, it is not because of Roe v. Wade.

On the same day that Roe v. Wade was decided, another abortion case was on the docket, Doe v. Bolton. This case  challenged the Georgia abortion laws. Since Roe v. Wade was already approved, was there a need to decide on Doe v. Bolton. This decision was critical because it extended abortion options up to delivery because a woman could choose an abortion based on physical health, mental health, or emotional health. The case was filed on behalf of Doe, Jane Doe, to protect her name.

When asked by one of the justices if Jane Doe was a real person, the attorney replied that it doesn’t matter. Therefore, on January 22, 1973, abortion was legalized for the first and second trimesters and then a later decision ruling extended abortion during the third trimester.

In 2003 the identity of Jane Doe surfaced, Sandra Cano. When Sandra discovered that she was the Jane Doe in the case, she filed a motion in a district court to have her case reviewed. Cases cannot be filed on theoretical possibilities but require a party that has been harmed. Doe v. Wade was filed on her behalf without her awareness, but the district court denied her motion. A motion with the appeals court was denied also. Finally, a Supreme Court review was requested and denied. Ms. Cano died in 2014.

The courts knew that a review of this landmark decision would have been overturned since Sandra did not support the case. This is a fascinating case of legal and judicial manipulation.

  • How did both cases make the docket on the same day? Was it because Roe v. Wade was a high profile case and Doe v. Bolton would attract minimal attention?
  • Why were the justices not interested in validating that Jane Doe was a real person?
  • The courts were reticent to reopen a settled Supreme Court case, even though the merits of the case were questionable.

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