The 50th anniversary of these two landmark Supreme Court cases brings more questions than answers

FILE - Generic gavel on wooden table.

From 1972 to 1973, two Supreme Court cases impacted the livelihood and opportunities available for American women. 

Roe v. Wade gave women the constitutional right to have an abortion. Title IX of the Education Amendments prohibited sex discrimination in any education program or activity. 

Both landmark changes have set a precedent for American women, but only one remains standing nearly 50 years after. 

Roe v. Wade

This year, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a 5-4 decision. With this decision, women’s rights to have an abortion are now dependent on states’ legislation. 

Across the nation, pro-life and pro-choice protestors took to the streets voicing their opinion about the Supreme Court ruling and the consequences of overturning this case.  

"We’ve learned about all the people who fought for our rights, so we did have rights. And to have it all taken away, after all that hard work is heartbreaking," Allison Liu said during a recent pro-choice protest in Downtown Dallas.  

Protests continue in Dallas, Fort Worth following Roe v. Wade reversal

"We are happy they are complying with where we are moving towards which is an abortion-free America," said Mary Castle, senior policy advisor for Texas Values. 

In Texas, a trigger law will soon ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization, with the only exception being the health and safety of the mother. Rape and incest that result in a pregnancy are not justifications that can grant an abortion. 

What Roe v. Wade reversal means for Texans

The ramifications of overturning Roe v. Wade are already being felt in the state with healthcare providers having to change their operations completely. Whole Women’s Health, one of the largest abortion providers in the state, is closing all four locations and moving its offices to New Mexico due to Texas’ ban. 

"It’s been a very difficult time, very challenging. There’s a mix of emotions and a lot of disappointment of course," said Andrea Ferrigno, the corporate vice president for Whole Women’s Health. 

The Austin-based company has been a leader in providing independent abortion clinics in the U.S. since it was founded in 2003. But their operations are slowly coming to an end in the company’s home state.  

"It’s devastating that we have to do this, but our commitment continues to be strong in terms of being able to help our patients," said Ferrigno. 

Large Texas abortion provider will relocate to New Mexico

Title IX

Seven months prior to Roe v. Wade, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was passed by President Richard M. Nixon. This legislation provided equal access to education for women for the first time in American history.  

Even though Title IX was intended for equality in education, one of the legislation’s biggest accomplishments has been the improvement of female participation and involvement in sports.  

Over the past 50 years, three million sports opportunities have in added for women in high school and 60,000 in college. 

Title IX has continued to grow and provided women with opportunities to compete and work in professional sports that are usually male dominated. 

In 2013, the National Football League launched Women Officiating Now (WON) to bring in more women to football officiating. 

The program hosts clinics to teach women the basics of football, officiating, and leadership skills for on and off the field. Through the program, Sarah Thomas became the first woman to become a full-time officiate. 

Even with Title’s IX impact on women’s athletic programs, the perception of Title IX has been narrowed to just cover sex-discrimination in athletics. However, the legislation has a broader impact addressing all forms of sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs. 

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education proposed changes to Title IX regulations. Changes include: 

  • Protecting students and employees from all forms of sex discrimination.
  • Provide full protection from sex-based harassment.
  • Protect the right of parents and guardians to support their elementary and secondary school children.
  • Protect students and employees who are pregnant or have pregnancy-related conditions.
  • Protect LGBTQI+ students from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics.

"Over the last 50 years, Title IX has paved the way for millions of girls and women to access equal opportunity in our nation's schools and has been instrumental in combating sexual assault and sexual violence in educational settings," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a press release.  "Our proposed changes will allow us to continue that progress and ensure all our nation's students – no matter where they live, who they are, or whom they love – can learn, grow, and thrive in school." 

The Next 50 Years

With only one landmark change still in effect, questions are surfacing about whether Title IX should protect transgender athletes.  

When the gender equity legislation passed in 1972, transgender politics was not on the radar. Now 50 years later, states’ stances on transgender athletes vary throughout the nation.  

In 2021, Texas passed House Bill 25, requiring student-athletes to play on sports teams that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate. In addition, the birth certificate must be dated near the student’s time of birth. Texas became the 10th state to enact this type of legislation.  

"HB 25 singles out transgender children and permanently prohibits them from the foundational opportunities that sports provide children, like camaraderie with friends and learning lessons about teamwork, sportsmanship, and healthy exercise" said Ricardo Martinez, the CEO of Equality Texas.  

Restrictions on transgender student athletes’ participation in school sports signed into law by Gov. Abbott

Some transgender athletes have spoken up and challenged their right to participate in their respective sports.

Lia Thomas, a swimmer at Penn, faced major scrutiny for competing in female swim and dive.  

Last year, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and International Olympic Committee released new guidelines for transgender athletes.

"Every person has the right to practice sport without discrimination and in a way that respects their health, safety, and dignity. At the same time, the credibility of competitive sport - and particularly high-level organized sporting competitions - relies on a level playing field, where no athlete has an unfair and disproportionate advantage over the rest," said the committee in the IOC Framework on Fairness, Inclusion, and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations report.

The new guidelines reversed the IOC's transgender policy that required women to have testosterone levels under a certain level for at least 12 months and will now be decided by each individual sport.

However, some elite sports are choosing to keep their existing transgender policies or enforcing stricter policies. USA Swimming updated its guidelines to now require testosterone levels to be even lower for at least 36 months before competing. 

World swimming bans transgender athletes from women's events

The future of the landmark decisions is still unclear; however the generational impact Title IX and Roe v. Wade has had on American women will never be forgotten.