The Supreme Court of the United States 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.
Petitioners, five abortion clinics and a physician and others, brought lawsuit in federal district court against the governor of Pennsylvania and others, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from five provisions of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of 1982. The provisions included § 3205, which required that a woman seeking an abortion give her informed consent prior to the procedure, and specified that she be provided with certain information at least 24 hours before the abortion was performed; § 3206, which mandated the informed consent of one parent for a minor to obtain an abortion, but provided a judicial bypass procedure; § 3209, which commanded that, unless certain exceptions applied, a married woman seeking an abortion must sign a statement indicating that she notified her husband; § 3203, which defined a "medical emergency" that excused compliance with the foregoing requirements; and §§ 3207(b), 3214(a), and 3214(f), which imposed certain reporting requirements on facilities providing abortion services. Before any of the provisions took effect, petitioners sought a declaratory judgment that each of the provisions was unconstitutional on its face, and sought injunctive relief against enforcement of those provisions. The district court held all the provisions unconstitutional and permanently enjoined their enforcement. On appeal, the court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, striking down the husband notification provision but upholding the others.
Did the essential holdings in Roe v. Wade still apply in the case at bar?
The Supreme Court of the United States 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 § 3209 imposed a substantial obstacle in a large fraction of cases and was invalid. The Court also affirmed the appellate court's holding that 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3202, the medical emergency provision, did not impose an undue burden on a woman's abortion right. A plurality of the Court determined that 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3214(a)(12) was invalid because it required a married woman to provide a reason for her failure to provide notice to her husband. The Court substantially affirmed the holding of the court of appeals, although it also found that the reporting provision related to husband notification was invalid, and remanded the case for further proceedings.