Law School Case Brief
Planned Parenthood v. Casey - 505 U.S. 833, 112 S. Ct. 2791 (1992)
The Court reaffirms Roe v. Wade's essential holding, which has three parts. First is a recognition of the right of the woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State. Before viability, the State's interests are not strong enough to support a prohibition of abortion or the imposition of a substantial obstacle to the woman's effective right to elect the procedure. Second is a confirmation of the State's power to restrict abortions after fetal viability, if the law contains exceptions for pregnancies which endanger the woman's life or health. And third is the principle that the State has legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus that may become a child. These principles do not contradict one another.
A Pennsylvania abortion statute was amended to provide that (1) a woman seeking an abortion is required to give her informed consent prior to the abortion procedure and to be provided, at least 24 hours before the abortion is performed, with certain information concerning her decision whether to undergo an abortion, (2) a minor seeking an abortion is required to obtain the informed consent of one of her parents or guardians, but has available a judicial bypass option if the minor does not wish to or cannot obtain such consent, (3) unless certain exceptions apply, a married woman seeking an abortion is required to sign a statement indicating that she has notified her husband of her intended abortion, (4) compliance with the foregoing requirements is exempted in the event of a "medical emergency," which term is defined in another statutory provision as a pregnant woman's medical condition that on the basis of a physician's good-faith clinical judgment, necessitates an immediate abortion to avert the woman's death or to avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function, and (5) facilities providing abortion services are subject to certain reporting and record-keeping requirements, which do not include the disclosure of the identities of women who have undergone abortions, but which include a requirement of reporting of a married woman's failure to provide notice to her husband of her intended abortion. Before any of these provisions took effect, five abortion clinics and one physician representing himself as well as a class of physicians who provided abortion services brought suit seeking declaratory and relief on the allegation that each provision was unconstitutional on its face. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, after entering a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the provisions, held that all the provisions were unconstitutional and entered a permanent injunction against the state's enforcement of the provisions. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that only the husband notification provision, was unconstitutional.
Was the requirement on married women to notify their husbands before undergoing an abortion presents a substantial obstacle on their choice, and therefore invalid?
The Court applied the doctrine of stare decisis and reaffirmed the essential holdings in Roe v. Wade because that decision was still workable and its factual underpinnings had not changed. In a joint opinion, three Justices rejected Roe's trimester framework and adopted an undue burden test for determining whether State regulations had the purpose or effect of placing substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before viability. The Court agreed that the statute imposed a substantial obstacle in a large fraction of cases and was invalid. The Court also affirmed the holding the court of appeals that the medical emergency provision did not impose an undue burden on a woman's abortion right. A plurality of the Court determined that the statute was also invalid because it required a married woman to provide a reason for her failure to provide notice to her husband.
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