RESPONDENT: Akron Center for Reproductive Health
LOCATION: Akron City Council
DOCKET NO.: 81-746
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
CITATION: 462 US 416 (1983)
ARGUED: Nov 30, 1982
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1983
Alan G. Segedy - for the petitioner, rebuttal
Rex E. Lee - for the petitioner
Stephan Landsman - for the respondent
Facts of the case
In 1978 the Akron City Council enacted an ordinance which established seventeen provisions to regulate the performance of abortions. Among other things, the ordinance required: all abortions performed after the first trimester to be done in hospitals, parental consent before the procedure could be performed on an unmarried minor, doctors to counsel prospective patients, a twenty-four hour waiting period, and that fetal remains be disposed of in a "humane and sanitary manner." Some of the ordinance's provisions were invalidated by a federal district court.
Did several provisions of the Akron ordinance violate a woman's right to an abortion as guaranteed by the Court's decision in Roe v. Wade and the right-to-privacy doctrine as implied by the Fourteenth Amendment?
Media for Akron v. Akron Center For Reproductive Health
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 30, 1982 in Akron v. Akron Center For Reproductive Health
Warren E. Burger:
We will hear arguments next in City of Akron against Akron Center for Reproductive Health.
Mr. Segedy, I think you may proceed when you are ready.
Alan G. Segedy:
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, the principal issues presented in this case are whether the state may reasonably regulate in the area of abortion in a manner designed to ensure an informed decision by a pregnant woman in a situation where there in fact is no physician-patient relationship; likewise, whether the state may require parental consent or judicial consent as a prerequisite to an abortion to be performed upon an immature minor; and finally, exactly what is the standard of review that should be applied in the testing of abortion-related legislation.
The Akron ordinance was passed on February 28, 1978, amongst considerable controversy, but contrary to the characterization by the cross-petitioners that this was a drastic departure from normal legislative procedure, this ordinance and the process whereby it was enacted is probably one of the finest examples of the legislative process on the local level.
There were at least four public hearings on this ordinance, including an entire day spent with expert medical testimony with doctors from all over the country, and likewise an entire day of legal testimony with respect to legal experts rendering their opinions as to the constitutionality of this ordinance.
I would point out to the Court that the ordinance has not been challenged by a pregnant woman, but has been challenged by three abortion clinics and a doctor who resides approximately 300 miles from the City of Akron.
This case represents a real lawsuit with real parties and real evidence and a trial that lasted for about two-and-a-half weeks, and I think when the Court reviews the record, it will be eminently clear that in the abortion situation in the City of Akron, there is no physician-patient relationship anywhere near what this Court envisioned in the case of Roe versus Wade.
When the Sixth Circuit tested this legislation it applied a two-tier test; first, to determine whether or not there was any legally significant impact or consequence on the abortion decision, and if there was, the court determined that there must be a compelling state interest.
The court then concluded that if the regulation impacted on the first trimester of pregnancy, by its interpretation of Roe versus Wade, the state necessarily did not have a compelling state interest.
Warren E. Burger:
When you suggested that no patient was challenging the statute, did you mean to suggest that only a patient could challenge the statute?
Alan G. Segedy:
No, Your Honor.
I just point that out in reference to the considerations with respect to the parental consent provisions and with respect to minors challenging the statute with respect to parental consent.
Clearly Roe versus Wade and subsequent cases tell us that there can be standing by jus tertii on the part of the physician.
The City of Akron recognizes that.
However, the city would submit that the proper standard of review that should be applied, and the standard which this Court has reiterated is whether or not the regulation is unduly burdensome on the woman's decision to have an abortion.
This Court stated in Roe versus Wade, and reiterated numerous times that that decision did not represent abortion on demand.
The right that is contained which the Court recognized in Roe versus Wade was not simply the right to have an abortion, but the right to make that choice either to have an abortion or to bear a child.
The essential right is that freedom of choice.
The abortion clinics in this case, as the record shows, make certain assumptions with respect to this situation, the first of which is that abortion is always the best choice for the pregnant woman; secondly, that the abortion clinics' interests always align in essentially a one-to-one correspondence with the pregnant woman or the minor; and finally, that the interests of the state or the City of Akron in this case or the parents are somehow adverse to that of the pregnant woman or the pregnant minor.
This Court has recognized interest in maternal health, potential life, and maintaining medical standards.
The City of Akron would submit there is also another important interest involved in this area which this Court has not had to face yet, because it has not come up in any particular fact situation, and that is, the city or the state has an interest in protecting the woman's own constitutional right of her freedom of choice as to whether or not to have an abortion or whether to carry her child, her unborn child to term.
The city would submit this is an important interest, in fact compelling, and exists throughout the entire spectrum of the pregnancy.
The consideration of an abortion statute should not simply be a matter of determining that automatically there must be a compelling state interest.
I think the courts below must look at a regulation and determine whether or not there is any impact on the abortion decision.
That impact may be choice-enhancing, or that impact may burden... be burdensome.
If in fact the impact is burdensome, the city would submit that there must be a determination of whether or not there is a substantial burden on the woman's right to choose.
If there is a substantial burden, as in Roe versus Wade or Planned Parenthood versus Danforth with respect to the parental veto, then there must be a compelling state interest.
On the contrary, if the burden is only insubstantial, all the state need show is that there is a rational basis for the legislation.
Sandra Day O'Connor:
Counsel, is the city relying on all four of the alleged state interests that you described in this instance?