Simopoulos v. Virginia

PETITIONER: Chris Simopoulos
LOCATION: Dr. Simopoulos’ Clinic

DOCKET NO.: 81-185
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Virginia

CITATION: 462 US 506 (1983)
ARGUED: Nov 30, 1982
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1983

Roy Lucas - on behalf of the Appellant
William G. Broaddus - on behalf of the Appellee

Facts of the case

Dr. Chris Simopoulos, a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist, performed an abortion for a 17-year-old girl at his clinic in Falls Church, Virginia. The girl was in her second trimester and did not inform her parents about the procedure, despite Dr. Simopoulos’ suggestion. Dr. Simploulous was indicted under a Virginia law prohibiting second trimester abortions outside of a licensed hospital. The Circuit Court of Fairfax County convicted him without a jury and the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the conviction.


(1) Does the prosecution’s failure to allege a lack of medical necessity for the abortion violate Due Process?

(2) Did the prosecution fail to prove that Dr. Simploulous’ acts caused the death of the unborn fetus?

(3) Is the Virginia law requiring all second trimester abortions to take place in licensed hospitals unconstitutional?

Media for Simopoulos v. Virginia

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 30, 1982 in Simopoulos v. Virginia

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first this morning in 81-185, Simopoulos against Virginia.

Mr. Lucas, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Roy Lucas:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this appeal from the Supreme Court of Virginia dates back three years and one day ago, when a team of Falls Church police arrived at the American Women's Clinic in that city.

Dr. Simopoulos, a gynecologist, was inside with his staff and numerous patients.

He practices there as well as in a Woodbridge office and at four hospitals in Northern Virginia where he has staff privileges as a board certified obstetrician/gynecologist.

The police seized the clinic, secured it.

They arrested Dr. Simopoulos, searched the premises, photographed the area, including the operating room, the laboratory, and the various pieces of equipment that he had there.

They in particular had a search warrant and seized the medical records of one young woman who has gone by initials during the course of this case, and I will continue to do so.

They also seized the sign-in sheet that had the names of all of the patients who were there on that particular day.

Dr. Simopoulos was--

Warren E. Burger:

Why are these factors relevant to the basic issue presented?

Roy Lucas:

--These are basic background facts, Your Honor.

That is all.

I was getting to the charge now.

Warren E. Burger:

I fail to see what they have to do with the case.

Roy Lucas:

They are just background about the fact that he was then arrested, he was then charged under the particular Virginia statute, the Virginia Code 18.2-71.

The statute defines as a felony any abortion "except as provided" in the other sections that are within the particular article.

The statute is in its language remarkably like the statutes from 1848, the first statute up through 1970, except the earlier statutes were included in one paragraph, whereas... and this was significant to the Virginia Supreme Court... the current statute is in several different statutory sections.

The indictment, which is set out in the jurisdictional statement, Pages 3 through 4, charged only the violation of the one statute, the 71 statute, which on its face declares all abortions illegal except as provided in the other statutory sections.

The indictment did negate two of the separate sections, the section pertaining to the length of pregnancy and that the indictment alleged, and it was not contested, that pregnancy was in the second trimester.

The indictment also negated the question of whether the abortion had been performed in a hospital or somewhere else.

The indictment did not negate, however, the 74-1 section on medical necessity.

The prosecution theory, as expressed in the indictment and in the various arguments, particularly the closing argument at 449 of the Joint Appendix, was that the Commonwealth had only to prove some act by the doctor with intent to cause an abortion, and that that constituted the sufficiency of the crime.

According to the prosecution theory, the crime was essentially complete when P.M. left Dr. Simopoulos's American Women's Clinic, provided that she later somewhere aborted, and provided that the prosecution was able to connect up the saline installation procedure with either the demise of the fetus or the abortion of the fetus.

There was a bench trial in this case rather than a jury trial, at which numerous arguments were made, of which three have remained in our presentation to the Court here.

In pretrial hearings that lasted about a day and a half, the defendant put on evidence to challenge the constitutionality of the statute and to challenge the arguments to challenge the defects in the indictment and the definition of the offense.

We called various expert witnesses to deal with the question of whether there was any health or other basis for the statute.

We had three gynecologists from Northern Virginia experienced with second trimester abortions, as well as one particular gynecologist who had conducted an extensive study on out-patient saline abortions.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

Mr. Lucas--

Roy Lucas:

Yes, Mr. Justice.