Family Law Keyed to Weisberg

back
Topic /161
Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey

Citation. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 112 S. Ct. 2791, 120 L. Ed. 2d 674, 1992 U.S. LEXIS 4751, 60 U.S.L.W. 4795, 92 Daily Journal DAR 8982, 6 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 663 (U.S. June 29, 1992)

Brief Fact Summary. A Pennsylvania statute required notification of the husband or various other stringent notifications prior to permitting an abortion

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Requiring spousal notification prior to an abortion is unduly burdensome and unconstitutional. Requiring parental notification in the case of minors is constitutional so long as there is a medical emergency exception and a judicial bypass procedure.

Facts. A Pennsylvania abortion law permitted abortion on a married women only after having received a signed statement from the woman that she has notified her husband, except in cases of medical emergency. The woman also had the option of providing a signed statement that her husband was not the man who impregnated her; that her husband could not be located; that the pregnancy was the result of a reported sexual assault; or that notifying the husband will cause him or someone else to inflict bodily injury upon her. Physicians performing abortions without the required statement will have their licenses revoked and are liable for damages to the husband.

Issue. Does the spousal notification requirement place an undue burden on married women who seek abortions in violation of the United States Constitution?

Held. The Court rejects the common law view of the married couple as one and finds that the spousal notification requirement is unduly burdensome and a violation of the Constitution.
Common law provided that a married woman had no legal existence separate from her husband. However, it is clear that state regulation of abortion has a far greater impact on the mother’s liberty than the fathers. Although the husband has a substantial interest in the unborn fetus, when balancing between the mother and father’s interest, the balance weighs in the mother’s favor.

It is well documented that spousal abuse occurs in a variety of different ways, and can be brought on by knowledge of pregnancy. A significant number of women would be deterred from receiving abortions under this law as if the state had completely outlawed abortion. Spousal notification would essentially enable many husbands to wield a veto over his wife’s decision.

So long as there is an adequate judicial bypass procedure permitting minors to petition a court to allow their abortions, it is constitutional to require unemancipated minors to receive parental or guardian consent. Medical emergencies are the exception.

Dissent. The spousal statute requires notification, not consent. We believe that the spousal notification statute furthers legitimate state interests, such as promoting the integrity of the marital relationship.

Discussion. The majority’s holding was largely based on testimony suggesting that the spousal notification requirement would result in either spousal abuse or the decision to not receive an abortion solely to avoid such abuse. The dissent feels that open discussion between spouses might lessen concerns and allow births when abortion seemed to be the only option to the wife.