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Doe v. Bolton

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Doe (Plaintiff) challenged Georgia’s abortion statute as unconstitutional after she was denied an abortion.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    1) A state statute is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when it requires that all abortions, no matter the stage of pregnancy, be performed in a hospital instead of in a less expensive clinic. 2) A state statute is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when it requires hospitals performing abortions to meet accreditation requirements not mandated for hospitals not performing abortions or performing other surgical procedures. 3) A state statute is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when it requires a special hospital staff committee to give permission before an abortion can be performed when that permission is not required for any other surgery. 4) A state statute is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when it requires that two doctors besides her own examine the patient and agree to the abortion when that requirement is not in place for any other surgery. 5) A state statute is in violation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause when it restricts abortions to only Georgia residents.

    Facts.

    Plaintiff was denied an abortion and sued, challenging Georgia’s abortion reform statute as unconstitutional. She challenged several of the statute’s procedural requirements, including: 1) all abortions were required to be performed in hospitals instead of less expensive abortion clinics; 2) hospitals performing abortions had to meet special accreditation requirements not required for hospitals not performing abortions or for hospitals performing other types of surgery; 3) a special hospital staff committee was required to give permission for an abortion, but not for any other surgery; 4) two physicians other than the patient’s physician were required to independently examine the patient and give permission for an abortion, but this was not required not for any other surgery; and 5) only residents of Georgia could receive abortions in Georgia. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari. [The remainder of the procedural posture is not included in the casebook.]

    Issue.

    1) Is a state statute in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when it requires all abortions, no matter at what stage of pregnancy, be performed in a hospital instead of a less expensive clinic? 2) Is a state statute in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when it requires hospitals performing abortions to meet accreditation requirements not mandated for hospitals not performing abortions or performing other surgical procedures? 3) Is a state statute in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when it requires a special hospital staff committee give permission before an abortion can be performed when that permission is not required for any other surgery? 4) Is a state statute in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when it requires that two doctors besides her own examine the patient and agree to the abortion when that requirement is not in place for any other surgery? 5) Is a state statute in violation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause when it restricts abortions to Georgia residents?

    Held.

    (Blackmun, J.) 1) Yes. A state statute is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when it requires that all abortions, no matter the stage of pregnancy, be performed in a hospital instead of in a less expensive clinic. This provision is invalid as applied to first trimester abortions. 2) Yes. A state statute is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when it requires hospitals performing abortions to meet accreditation requirements not mandated for hospitals not performing abortions or performing other surgical procedures. Georgia has not proven that only hospitals that meet these accreditation requirements can satisfy the health interests is seeks to support. 3) Yes. A state statute is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when it requires a special hospital staff committee to give permission before an abortion can be performed when that permission is not required for any other surgery. This procedure’s application only to abortion procedures is unduly restrictive of patient’s rights. The patient’s interests are already safeguarded by her doctor. 4) Yes. A state statute is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when it requires that two doctors besides her own examine the patient and agree to the abortion when that requirement is not in place for any other surgery. When the patient’s doctor is licensed by the state, he or she has been recognized by the state as capable of exercising appropriate medical judgment. The requirement of two additional doctors to examine the patient and agree with the abortion has no rational link to a patient’s needs and unduly infringes upon the patient’s doctor’s right to practice medicine. 5) Yes. A state statute is in violation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause when it restricts abortions to only Georgia residents. The Privileges and Immunities Clause protect residents of other states who enter Georgia to obtain medical treatment. A contrary holding would allow states to limit general medical care to only its own residents.

    [The disposition of the case is not included in the casebook.]

    Discussion.

    Doe  was the companion case to Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). Both cases challenged state abortion laws. The state law challenged in Roe was similar to the laws in many states and had been in effect for more than a century before the Roe litigation began. The Georgia statute challenged in Doe was a more recent statute that reflected modern medical knowledge and practice as well as changes in attitudes about abortion. Although it was a more modern statute, the Court in Doe struck the majority of the law’s requirements.


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