Facts of the case
The Pennsylvania legislature amended its abortion control law in 1988 and 1989. Among the new provisions, the law required informed consent and a 24 hour waiting period prior to the procedure. A minor seeking an abortion required the consent of one parent (the law allows for a judicial bypass procedure). A married woman seeking an abortion had to indicate that she notified her husband of her intention to abort the fetus. These provisions were challenged by several abortion clinics and physicians. A federal appeals court upheld all the provisions except for the husband notification requirement.
Why is the case important?
A Pennsylvania law imposed several obligations on women seeking abortions. The constitutionality of the law was brought into question.
Because neither the factual underpinnings of Roe v. Wade, nor the Supreme Court’s of the United States’ understanding of the law as it concerns Roe has changed since 1973, a woman’s right to an abortion as announced in Roe is upheld. Accordingly, a State’s interest in the life of the unborn has sufficient force so that a woman’s right to an abortion can be restricted. As to when in the stage of a pregnancy the right to an abortion can be restricted, the Supreme Court hereby rejects the trimester framework of Roe and announces the “undue burden” standard. Under this approach, all of the Act, except the parental consent requirement, the Court finds proper. The Supreme Court’s reasoning is as follows:
Because the informed consent requirement facilitates the wise exercise of a woman’s right to an abortion it cannot be said to impose an undue burden on the right Roe protects. The Court of Appeals, reversing the District Court on this issue, is affirmed.
The Court applied the doctrine of stare decisis and reaffirmed the essential holdings in Roe v. Wade because that decision was still workable and its factual underpinnings had not changed. In a joint opinion, three Justices rejected Roe’s trimester framework and adopted an undue burden test for determining whether State regulations had the purpose or effect of placing substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before viability. The Court agreed that the statute imposed a substantial obstacle in a large fraction of cases and was invalid. The Court also affirmed the holding the court of appeals that the medical emergency provision did not impose an undue burden on a woman’s abortion right. A plurality of the Court determined that the statute was also invalid because it required a married woman to provide a reason for her failure to provide notice to her husband.
- Advocates: Kathryn Kolbert Argued the cause for the petitioners Ernest D. Preate, Jr. Argued the cause for the respondents Kenneth W. Starr Department of Justice, argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae
- Petitioner: Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania
- Respondent: Robert P. Casey, Governor of Pennsylvania
- DECIDED BY:Rehnquist Court
- Location: Pennsylvania State Capitol
|Citation:||505 US 833 (1992)|
|Argued:||Apr 22, 1992|
|Decided:||Jun 29, 1992|