January 22, 1973

It was arguably the most controversial high court decision of the 20th century. The justices, in a 7-2 vote, held that a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion was constitutionally protected.

The ruling struck down prohibitions on abortion in 46 states and drew ve­hement opposition —as well as ardent support. • In his dissent, Justice Byron White noted that this was an issue “over which reasonable men may easily and heatedly differ.” • More than 30 years later, abortion re­­mains among the most divisive issues on the domestic political landscape, prompting protests on the ruling’s anniversary, including the one in 2006 pictured above. This past No­vember, the jus­tices heard arguments in Gonzales v. Carhart on the issue of so-called partial-birth abortion. A de­cision is expected by June.

Boxed in By the Bench

Coming of Age

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