Lesson Plan: Landmark Supreme Court Case: Roe v Wade

Landmark Cases: Roe v. Wade - Historical Context

Clarke Forsythe and Melissa Murray talked about the background and historical context of the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, including the Women's Rights movement.


The Supreme Court has the power to interpret the Constitution. Its rulings on cases determine the meaning of laws and acts of Congress and the president. Knowing the key decisions of the Supreme Court and the precedents they set is vital in understanding the meaning of laws, how our country has changed over time, and the direction the country is currently headed. In this lesson students will examine the case of Roe v. Wade.


  • STEP 1.

    As a class, view the following videos and answer the questions below to lay the foundation for students to understand this case:

    VIDEO CLIP: Historical Context (6:08)

    VIDEO CLIP: Background and Legal Process (5:46)

    • Explain the TX law that was being contested.

    • Describe the circumstances involving Norma McCorvey that led to this case.

    • Explain the legal process that Norma McCorvey took as this case made its way through the state courts.

    • According to Clarke Forsythe, what is the problem associated with the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade?

    • Explain Henry Wade's role in the case.

    • Explain the ruling by the three judge federal panel.
  • STEP 2.

    Students can either work independently or in groups to view the following video clips. They should take notes using the handout below:

  • VIDEO CLIP: Questions before the Court and Oral Arguments (3:32)

    • Describe the four questions before the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.

    • Explain the key points for both sides in the oral arguments before the Court.

    • What are the problems with the first oral arguments according to Clarke Forsythe?
  • VIDEO CLIP: The First Conference (4:08)

    • Explain the frustration that developed among the Justices during the first conference following the hearing of Roe v. Wade.

    • Why did the case end up being re-argued? Describe the reactions of the Justices to it being re-argued.
  • VIDEO CLIP: Second Oral Argument (2:57)

    • What are some of the challenges for the attorneys in arguing the case before the Court according to Clarke Forsythe?

    • Describe the arguments for both sides during the rehearing of Roe v. Wade.

    • How did the arguments differ from the first hearing?
  • VIDEO CLIP: The Decision (2:36)

    • How did the Court answer the four key questions of the case?

    • Explain the majority opinion of Justice Harry Blackmun.

    • Explain the dissenting opinion of Justice Byron White.

    • Describe the events and dynamics of the Court during the announcement of the opinion.
  • VIDEO CLIP: Impact and Legacy I (0:43)

  • VIDEO CLIP: Impact and Legacy II (1:24)

    • Explain the significance and legacy of the Roe v. Wade case to law and society.
  • STEP 3.

    As a class, discuss the significance of this case, the precedent it set, and its legacy.

  • STEP 4.

    Choose an activity from C-SPAN Classroom's Deliberations site to engage in a structured student-centered analysis of the case.

Additional Resource


  • 9th Amendment
  • Abortion
  • Appellate Review
  • District Court
  • Due Process Clause
  • Feminist
  • Judicial Interpretation
  • Population Control
  • Precedent
  • Right Of Privacy
  • Social Reform Movement


Civil Rights & Civil LibertiesJudicial BranchSupreme Court Cases


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