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Gonzales v. Carhart

Citation. 550 U.S. 124, 127 S.Ct. 1610, 167 L.Ed.2d 480 (2007).
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Citation. 550 U.S. 124, 127 S.Ct. 1610, 167 L.Ed.2d 480 (2007).

Brief Fact Summary.

Defendant, among several other physician providers and Planned Parenthood groups, challenged a federal law banning partial-birth abortions, arguing the law is unconstitutional.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The Partial-Birth Ban Act of 2003 is constitutional.


The Partial-Birth Abortion Act prohibited intact D&E procedure, which is the most common second-trimester abortion method. About 30 states had already enacted bans designed to prohibit the procedure. Defendant opposed the law and argued it should be void for vagueness, suggesting the law imposed an undue borden.


Whether the Partial-Birth Abortion Act is constitutional.


Yes. The Act is constitutional. It is not void for vagueness, does not impose an undue burden from any overbreadth, and is not invalid on its face.


Justice Ginsburg

The decision blurs the lines firmly drawn in previous cases between pre-viability and post-viability abortions. For the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman’s health.

The law saves not a single fetus from destruction, for it targets only a method of performing abortion. The notion that the Act furthers any legitimate government interest, is irrational.


Justice Thomas

The Court accurately applies precedent. The Court’s abortion precedent, however, has no basis in the Constitution. There is no constitutional right to abortion.


Previously this Court has held the state has an interest in preserving fetal life. Where there is a rational basis to act, and it does not impose an undue burden, the state may use its regulatory power to prohibit certain procedures which further legitimate interest in regulating the medical profession and promoting respect for life, including the life of the unborn.

We reject the contention that the congressional purpose of the Act was to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion. Congress has the authority to regulate in an area where the medical profession has yet to reach consensus.

Alternatives are available to the prohibited procedure. If intact D&E procedure is truly necessary, it appears likely an injection would also suffice. The law is constitutional. Judgement reversed.

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