Justice Blackmun, writing for the majority, acknowledged that the state had an interest in regulating abortion as a way to reduce medical risk for women and to protect the lives of unborn children but argued that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy must be weighed against the rights of the state. As long as the fetus is not viable — the Court used an established definition of viability, which considered a fetus viable at the point it is able to live outside its mother, even if some artificial assistance is needed for it to do so — the state can only regulate abortions in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health. For abortions prior to the end of the first trimester, the Court held that the state should not interfere and should leave the decision-making to a pregnant woman and her doctor. Only for abortions during the third trimester of pregnancy, when the fetus is viable according to the Court’s definition, could the state prohibit abortion and only then if doing so did not significantly threaten the health of the pregnant woman.
Blackmun went on to state that in questions of abortion, there is no consideration of a fetus’s right to life under the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment because the Fourteenth Amendment protects only Americans who have been born. There is no Fourteenth Amendment protection for the unborn. Blackmon adds, in note perhaps to the spirit of the times, that the Court’s ruling is not intended to serve as an answer to the question of when life begins but only as a statement of the reach of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Roe v. Wade remains a milestone case, setting the stage for countless arguments between those who support abortion and those who would do away with it. Though I agree with the gist of the Court’s decision — that a woman should be able to obtain a legal abortion, especially early in pregnancy — I find the legal basis for the Roe v. Wade decision a little shaky. Protecting the right to