WASHINGTON -- In Roe V. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark Jan. 22, 1973, ruling, the court held the constitutional right to privacy includes a woman's decision to end her pregnancy by abortion.
But, the court held this is not an absolute right and must be weighed against the state's interest in the health of the mother and the fetus.
To balance the individual and state interests, the court placed the following qualifications on the right to an abortion during the nine months of pregnancy:
First trimester (first three months):
-The state may not interfere with a woman's ability to decide, in consultation with her doctor, to end her pregnancy by abortion.
Second trimester (second three months):
-When abortion becomes more dangerous than childbirth, the state has a legally compelling interest in protecting the health of the mother and can place some reasonable restrictions on obtaining an abortion.
Third trimester (third three months):
-Once a fetus reaches viability -- when it can live on its own -- the state may act on its compelling interest in human life and prohibit all abortions except those necessary to protect the life and health of the mother.