Roe remains

Roe v. Wade finds a home in a new part of the AP Gov curriculum


This summer, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn the precedent set by Roe v. Wade / Wikipedia

Despite its overturning in the Supreme Court this summer, Roe v. Wade (1973) remains one of 12 foundational cases for AP United States Government and Politics (AP Gov) classes.

While there are concerns about navigating respect and political neutrality, all three AP Gov teachers see the change as a potential aid. 

“I think it’s going to bring a lot of relevance to the conversation about judicial activism versus judicial restraint, about powers and federalism,” said AP Gov teacher John Smith. “I think kids will have a kind of firm understanding of how this case is influencing a lot of  the College Board objectives.”

Federalism refers to distribution of power between state and federal government. Due to its roots in the Federalist Papers – a document over 200 years old – the topic can come off as dated, so teachers are glad to have a new way to keep it current.

“Several years ago, we talked about states with legalized marijuana laws versus a national law against marijuana. That’s less relevant today,” said AP Gov teacher Cheryl Verhey. “So [the overturning of Roe] is actually kind of perfect timing in terms of teaching about state versus national power.”

Lacking official guidance from the College Board for this year, some teachers are wondering how this will affect the requirements in future years. 

“It’s interesting because all the other cases we cover have not been overturned, so the fact that [Roe and Engel v. Vitale] are now basically overturned,” said AP Gov teacher Jorge Perez.”I can see Engel not being a required case anymore; I think Roe v. Wade might stick around for a little longer.”

Engel v. Vitale is another case essentially overturned this summer. It denoted that official prayer in public schools violated the First Amendment.

Roe v. Wade deals with abortion law, and remains the center of debates decades after its passing. The debates are typically split along political lines, making its overturning an intensely polarizing topic. However, teachers are guided to maintain neutrality in their classrooms.. 

“It’s not a teacher’s job to tell our students how to vote,” said Perez. “We shouldn’t have any influence on what your political beliefs are; we shouldn’t be telling you that you’re right or you’re wrong.” 

Most teachers are not concerned about their ability to maintain neutrality on Roe, despite strong student opinions that might crop up in the classroom. 

“I very much pride myself in being politically neutral,  so I hope that I will be able to remain politically neutral,” said Verhey. “I think I can do this pretty well because [the overturning] is somewhat cut and dry.”

Others are concerned about remaining impartial without disrespecting students that are personally affected by the Court’s decision. 

“If you try to play neutral, it can come across the wrong way, like, ‘Oh, do you not support a woman’s right to choose?’,” said Perez. “And that’s probably the most personal thing you could ever talk about, compared to the other cases.”