A striking curiosity of American life is that the names of legal cases can insinuate themselves into everyday dialogue. None more so, of course, than Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision where a majority-liberal Supreme Court extracted from the Constitution’s protection of life, liberty and property a constitutional right to abortion: absolute in the first trimester, qualified in the second, and, in rare cases, even in the third. In a 1992 fine-tuning exercise, the rule was re-written as a right to abortion unless and until the foetus was viable at about 24 weeks. But the principle remains.
Southern and rural states always saw Roe v Wade as a liberal aberration. Three years ago, Mississippi, where public opinion remains obstinately pro-life, threw down the gauntlet.