What explains the insistent pull of Roe v. Wade? Abortion law expert Mary Ziegler argues that the U.S. Supreme Court decision, which decriminalized abortion in 1973 and was overturned in 2022, had a hold on us that was not simply the result of polarized abortion politics. Rather, Roe took on meanings far beyond its original purpose of protecting the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship. It forced us to confront questions about sexual violence, judicial activism and restraint, racial justice, religious liberty, the role of science in politics, and much more.
In this history of what the Supreme Court’s best-known decision has meant, Ziegler identifies the inconsistencies and unsettled issues in our abortion politics. She urges us to rediscover the nuance that has long resided where we would least expect to find it—in the meaning of Roe itself.