The nation marks the 40th anniversary Tuesday of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Roe vs. Wade, which recognized a woman's right to an abortion.
The decision in a case out of Texas still evokes strong emotions from opponents and supporters. The annual March for Life, in which tens of thousands of abortion opponents march from the National Mall to the Supreme Court, is scheduled for Friday.
Written by the late Justice Harry Blackmun and handed down on Jan. 22, 1973, the 7-2 opinion in Roe said in part, "State criminal abortion laws, like those involved here, that except from criminality only a life-saving procedure on the mother's behalf without regard to the stage of her pregnancy and other interests involved violate the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, which protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman's qualified right to terminate her pregnancy."
Blackmun conceded a state "has legitimate interests in protecting both the pregnant woman's health and the potentiality of human life, each of which interests grows and reaches a 'compelling' point at various stages of the woman's approach to term." But an abortion, until the onset of a third trimester, "must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman's attending physician."
Some, but not all, of the sweep of Roe has been chipped away in subsequent Supreme Court decisions.
On their website, the organizers of the March for Life told protesters they should rally "on the National Mall between 7th & 9th streets, the same place as last year." Marchers are then scheduled to walk up Constitution Avenue, then to the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill.
Tens of thousands of protesters have attended the rally and march each year.
In support, National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill plans to lead a candlelight vigil Tuesday to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Roe.
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