What Does Roe v. Wade Actually Say?

January 18, 1987, John Piper preached a sermon to expose the evil of abortion. Since this sermon he has preached against abortion every year on the Sanctity of Life Sunday, which correlates with the dark anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

39 years and 50 million babies killed since this Supreme Court decision, what exactly does it say?

Pastor John:

When the American Medical Association was formed in 1847, abortion was commonly practiced "before quickening." But through the efforts of the A.M.A. and anti-obscenity crusaders and (ironically) feminists, abortion became illegal every where in the U.S. by 1900. Abortions went underground or out of the country.

The key reversal of this legal situation came on January 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade made the following rulings:

  • that no state may make laws regulating abortion during the first three months of pregnancy except to provide that they be done by licensed physicians;
  • that laws regulating abortion between the third month and the time of viability are constitutional only in so far as they are aimed at safeguarding the health of mothers;
  • that laws relating to the time from viability (6–6 1/2 months) until the end of the pregnancy may not prevent abortion if it is "to preserve the life or health of the mother";
  • that the "health" of the mother includes "all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman's age — relevant to the well-being of the patient." . . .

Summary

In effect, therefore, the law of our land today [in 1987 and 2012] is that any abortion is legal in America until birth if the mother can give reason that the pregnancy or the child will be an excessive burden or stress on her well-being.

Excerpted from Abortion: You Desire and Do Not Have, So You Kill (1987).

Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God, and is the lead planter of Cities Church in Minneapolis–Saint Paul, where he lives with his wife, Melissa, and their four children. He is also the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.