The Law: The Decision Blow by Blow

The abortion cases were first argued before the court in December 1971; only four days later the Justices met in conference and decided to strike down anti-abortion laws by a surprisingly sturdy 5-2 margin. (The vacant seats of Hugo Black and John Harlan had not yet been filled.) Nonetheless, for 13 months while the issue raged in the presidential campaign and countless women suffered personal tragedy, the court remained silent. Why? The emotional contretemps that went on behind the scenes did not long remain a secret from knowledgeable court watchers. The dispute soon...

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