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Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey

Citation. 505 U.S. 833, 112 S.Ct. 2791, 120 L.Ed.2d 674 (1992).

Brief Fact Summary.

Abortion clinics and physicians challenged Pennsylvania’s restrictions on abortions.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Laws restricting abortion must be evaluated under the undue burden standard. A finding of an undue burden is a shorthand for conclusion that a state regulation has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.

Facts.

The Pennsylvania legislature amended the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act. The new provisions required a woman seeking an abortion to give her informed consent and be provided with certain information at least 24 hours before the procedure. It also required a married woman seek written permission from her husband, exempted compliance in the event of medical emergencies, and imposed additional reporting requirements on facilities.

Issue.

Whether a state may restrict a woman’s right to abortion without violating the rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade.

Held.

Yes. A state may restrict a woman’s right to abortion without violating the rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade so long as it does not create an undue burden.

Concurrence.

Justice Stevens

Undue burden is the correct test. In applying it, however, I would strike down physician counsel requirement to provide a range of materials clearly designed to persuade a woman to choose not to undergo the abortion. I would also strike down the 24-hour waiting period because it rests on outmoded and unacceptable assumptions of the decision making capacity of women. Concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Justice Blackmun

Roe‘s requirement of strict scrutiny as implemented through a trimester framework should not be disturbed. Applying it here, we should strike down all of these provisions before us today. Concurring in part, concurring in judgement in part, and dissenting in part.

Justice Rehnquist

Roe should be overruled because there is no all-encompassing right of privacy and the Pennsylvania Act should be upheld in its entirety. The undue burden standard is an unjustified constitutional compromise. Concurring in judgement in part and dissenting in part.

Justice Scalia

The Constitution and the longstanding traditions of American society says nothing about the power of a woman to abort her child. Applying rational basis, I would uphold the law in its entirety. Concurring in judgement in part and dissenting in part.

Discussion.

We reaffirm Roe v. Wade‘s essential holding. First, a woman has the right to choose to have an abortion before viability and obtain it without undue interference from the state. Before viability, the state does not have a strong enough interest to support abortion prohibition. Second, after fetal viability, the state has power to restrict abortions so long as the law has exceptions for pregnancies which endanger the life or health of the mother. Thirdly, the state has a legitimate interest from the outset of the pregnancy, in protecting both the health of the mother and life of the fetus. These principles do not contradict one another.

The rigid trimester framework of Roe v. Wade, however, is rejected in favor of the undue burden analysis. The undue burden analysis does not disturb the central holding of Roe v. Wade. A statute with this purpose that creates a substantial obstacle is invalid because the means chosen by the state to further the interest in potential life must be calculated to inform the woman’s free choice, not hinder it.

Applying the undue burden analysis here, the only provision to fail is the husband notification requirement because it does not take into account the many women in abusive relationships who fear their safety. Parental consent before obtaining an abortion is not an undue burden so long as there is an adequate judicial bypass procedure. A 24-hour waiting period is also not burdensome.


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