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.