The Supreme Court Never Meant For Roe V. Wade To Become A Symbol Of Women's Rights

Pro-choice protesters from NARAL stand outside Mitt Romney’s hotel in Washington, D.C. last March.

Photo: Getty Images

When the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973 with its historic Roe v. Wade decision, it wasn’t concerned with protecting women’s rights so much as it wanted to protect doctors.Or so argues longtime Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse in an op-ed for The New York Times.

“[T]o the justices who decided the case, Roe v. Wade really was about abortion, nothing more or less,” Greenhouse wrote. “To read the actual opinion, as almost no one ever does, is to understand that the seven middle-aged to elderly men in the majority certainly didn’t think they were making a statement about women’s rights: women and their voices are nearly absent from the opinion.”

After reading the actual opinion ourselves, it seems Greenhouse has a point.

The concept of women’s rights is not mentioned anywhere in the opinion syllabus, but the justices do make a point to mention they’re protecting doctors‘ right to make decisions.

The justices ruled that “the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman’s attending physician.”

So, according to the ruling, the decision shouldn’t be left to the woman herself, but to her doctor.

While Roe v. Wade has become an important symbol in the fight for women’s rights, it doesn’t seem that was the justices’ original intent.

They seemed much more concerned with protecting doctors, a fellow class of professionals, rather than protecting a woman’s right to choose.

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