Four Decades Ago, U.S. News Barely Acknowledged Roe v. Wade

U.S. News was more concerned with the cease-fire in Vietnam than the Supreme Court decision.

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The Supreme Court decided 7-2 in favor of the right for women to have access to abortions 40 years ago today. This landmark decision did not make the front page of U.S. News & World Report, as a truce had recently been called in Vietnam, which some saw as the end of the war.

[DEBATE: Should Abortion Be Legal?]

Perhaps the far-reaching effects of the decision weren't evident at the time of publication. Or the editors thought people would prefer to read about what was perceived as the end of a decade-long war. Or perhaps abortion was still seen as a taboo topic at the time. Whatever the case, instead of giving our readers the simple write-up that ran in U.S. News on Feb. 5, 1973, the first issue after the decision was handed down, we at Press Past instead present a photographic look back.


A young woman holds a sign demanding a woman's right to abortion at a demonstration to protest the closing of a Madison abortion clinic in Wisconsin on April 20, 1971. The Midwest Medical Center was closed after authorities said more than 900 abortions had been performed at the facility in violation of the state's abortion laws.

A young woman protests the closing of a Madison abortion clinic in Wisconsin on April 20, 1971. The Midwest Medical Center was closed after authorities said more than 900 abortions had been performed at the facility in violation of the state's abortion laws.

Opponents of abortion laws listen to a speaker at a rally outside the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis., on April 25, 1973, before a hearing on several abortion bills by the assembly judiciary committee.

Opponents of abortion laws listen to a speaker at a rally outside the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison on April 25, 1973, before a hearing on several abortion bills by the assembly judiciary committee.

A woman carries her daughter as she pickets outside the New Jersey State House in Trenton, on May 8, 1969.

A woman carries her daughter as she pickets outside the New Jersey State House in Trenton, on May 8, 1969.

An estimated 5,000 people march around the Minnesota Capitol building protesting the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, ruling against state laws that criminalize abortion on Jan. 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court legalized abortion with a 7-2 vote.

An estimated 5,000 people march around the Minnesota Capitol building protesting the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision on Jan. 22, 1973.

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Members of the U.S. Supreme Court are seen on April 20, 1972. They are from left, front row: Associate Justices Potter Stewart; William O. Douglas; Chief Justice Warren E. Burger; Associate Justices William J. Brennan, Jr.; and Byron White. In the back row: Associate Justices Lewis F. Powell, Jr.; Thurgood Marshall; Harry A. Blackmun; and William Rehnquist.

The Supreme Court Justices who decided Roe v. WadeFront Row, Left to Right: Associate Justices Potter Stewart; William O. Douglas; Chief Justice Warren E. Burger; Associate Justices William J. Brennan, Jr.; and Byron White (dissented). Back Row: Associate Justices Lewis F. Powell, Jr.; Thurgood Marshall; Harry A. Blackmun; and William Rehnquist (dissented).