LOCATION: Pennsylvania State Capitol
DOCKET NO.: 91-744
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
CITATION: 505 US 833 (1992)
ARGUED: Apr 22, 1992
DECIDED: Jun 29, 1992
Ernest D. Preate, Jr. - Argued the cause for the respondents
Kathryn Kolbert - Argued the cause for the petitioners
Kenneth W. Starr - Department of Justice, argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae
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.
Can a state require women who want an abortion to obtain informed consent, wait 24 hours, and, if minors, obtain parental consent, without violating their right to abortions as guaranteed by Roe v. Wade?
Media for Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. CaseyAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 22, 1992 in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 29, 1992 in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey
William H. Rehnquist:
Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania versus Casey and a companion case will be announced by Justices O'Connor, Kennedy, and Souter.
Sandra Day O'Connor:
These cases come to us on certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
At issue are five provisions of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act.
The petitioner has filed suit in Federal District Court challenging the provisions as spatially unconstitutional.
The District Court found them unconstitutional and enjoin their enforcement.
The Court of Appeals reversed in part and upheld four of the five provisions.
The remaining provision, which would require married women to notify their husbands before obtaining abortion, was found unconstitutional by the Court of Appeals.
By the combination of several separate opinions filed today, the judgment in Number 91902 is affirmed and a judgment in 91744 is affirmed in part and reversed in part.
Justice Kennedy, Justice Souter, and I have filed a joint opinion which is joined in part by Justice Blackmun and Justice Stevens and as to that extent, the opinion of the Court.
Justice Kennedy and Justice Souter will have -- also have something to say about the judgment in these cases.
Both the petitioners and the cross-petitioners as well as the United States as amicus have urged us to reexamine the Court's holding in Roe against Wade decided in 1973.
In a joint opinion filed with the clerk today, we have done so, and we conclude that the central holding of Roe should be reaffirmed.
Some of us as individuals find abortion offensive to our most basic principles of morality but that can't control our decision.
Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.
After considering the constitutional questions decided in Roe, the principles underlying the institutional integrity of this Court and the rule of stare decisis, we reaffirm the constitutionally protected liberty of the woman to decide to have an abortion before the fetus attains viability and to obtain it without undo interference from the State.
We also reaffirm the State's power to restrict abortion after fetal viability if exceptions are made for the woman's life or health is in danger.
We also hold the State has legitimate interest from the outset of pregnancy and protecting the health of the mother and the life of the fetus that may become a child, and that the State may further these interests so long as it does not unduly burden the woman's right to choose.
Applying our analysis to the Pennsylvania Statutes challenged here, we uphold with some exceptions four of the five challenged provisions.
We find that the definition of medical emergency a requirement of informed consent, a requirement of parental consent, and a recordkeeping in reporting requirements do not impose undue burdens on a woman's right to choose whether she will terminate her pregnancy before viability.
We conclude however that the husband notification requirement unduly burdens his right and as for that reason unconstitutional.
Anthony M. Kennedy:
The -- the essential holding of Roe versus Wade, the holding that we today retain and reaffirm has three parts.
First is a recognition of the right of the woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and to obtain it without undue interference by the State.
Before viability, the State's interests are not so strong to support a prohibition of abortion or the imposition of a substantial obstacle to the woman's effective right to elect to that procedure.
Second is a confirmation of the State's power to restrict abortion after fetal viability if the law contains exceptions for pregnancies which endanger a woman's life or health.
And third is the principle that the State has legitimate interest from the outset of pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus that may become a child.
These principles do not contradict each other and we adhere to each.
Our cases recognize the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.
Our precedents "have respected the private realm of family life which the state cannot enter."
These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.
At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.