Roe V. Wade is the most controversial court ruling in American history.
Nearly 50 years after the Supreme Court handed down Roe V. Wade, Americans remain deeply divided over the ruling and the legal status of abortion.
Many Americans consider Roe V. Wade a singular victory for women's rights, making it possible for them to secure equal status with men. Without Roe, women would be second class citizens.
Many others consider Roe V. Wade a terrible injustice, depriving unborn children of their right to life. Roe casts an entire class of innocent human beings outside the human family.
Still others aren't sure where they stand.
But for all the controversy, most Americans have little understanding of what Roe V. Wade really says, or what it would mean for Roe to be overturned. Do you?
Roe V. Wade allows more abortion than you may realize.
When asked, many Americans will say they support Roe V. Wade, when what they really mean is that they support abortion in limited circumstances. They do not realize that Roe - with its companion case Doe V. Bolton, decided the same day - allows abortion for virtually any reason, at any point in pregnancy.
For example, pluralities or even majorities of Americans will say they oppose abortion being used as birth control, abortion for sex selection, abortion late in pregnancy and aborting a disabled fetus. Yet limits on such abortions have been struck down by courts under Roe and Doe.
This puts the United States far outside the mainstream in the developed world, where abortion is typically limited to the first 12-16 weeks of pregnancy.
Overturning Roe V. Wade would make our national politics less toxic.
For far too long, our federal politics have been dominated by the abortion issue. Single-issue voters have been willing to tolerate candidates they might otherwise reject because of their support or opposition to legal abortion.
No issue has contributed more to the polarization of American politics than abortion. As a result, major issues like immigration, health care, and even infrastructure remain unresolved.
If the Supreme Court overturns Roe V. Wade - making abortion a matter of state policy - the way will be open to solving these pressing national issues together. And that's something that all Americans should celebrate.
Overturning Roe V. Wade would not make abortion illegal.
Many people believe that abortion would be banned in the United States if the Supreme Court overturns Roe V. Wade. This is not so.
Instead, the issue of abortion would be returned to the states. The people of each state, acting through their elected representatives, would set their state's abortion policy. In fact, some state legislatures have already enacted measures in anticipation of Roe being overturned.
Abortion would be completely unrestricted in some states, more limited in other states, and perhaps even banned for non-medical reasons in certain states. But whatever the policy, it would be enacted through the democratic process.
"Roe isn't really about the woman's choice, is it? It's about the doctor's freedom to practice...it wasn't woman-centered, it was physician-centered." - Ruth Bader Ginsburg
For more information, visit AboutRoe.org