505 U.S. 833 (1992), Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey

Citation505 U.S. 833, 112 S.Ct. 2791, 120 L.Ed.2d 674, 60 U.S.L.W. 4795
Party NamePlanned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey
Case DateJune 29, 1992
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 833

505 U.S. 833 (1992)

112 S.Ct. 2791, 120 L.Ed.2d 674, 60 U.S.L.W. 4795

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania

v.

Casey

United States Supreme Court

June 29, 1992

Syllabus

At issue are five provisions of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of 1982: § 3205, which requires that a woman seeking an abortion give her informed consent prior to the procedure, and specifies that she be provided with certain information at least 24 hours before the abortion is performed; § 3206, which mandates the informed consent of one parent for a minor to obtain an abortion, but provides a judicial bypass procedure; § 3209, which commands that, unless certain exceptions apply, a married woman seeking an abortion must sign a statement indicating that she has notified her husband; § 3203, which defines a "medical emergency" that will excuse compliance with the foregoing requirements; and §§ 3207(b), 3214(a), and 3214(f), which impose certain reporting requirements on facilities providing abortion services. Before any of the provisions took effect, the petitioners, five abortion clinics and a physician representing himself and a class of doctors who provide abortion services, brought this suit seeking a declaratory judgment that each of the provisions was unconstitutional on its face, as well as injunctive relief. The District Court held all the provisions unconstitutional, and permanently enjoined their enforcement. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, striking down the husband notification provision but upholding the others.

Held: The judgment in No. 91-902 is affirmed; the judgment in No. 91-744 is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded.

947 F.2d 682 (CA3 1991): No. 91-902, affirmed; No. 91-744, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

JUSTICE O'CONNOR, JUSTICE KENNEDY, and JUSTICE SOUTER delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III, concluding that:

1. Consideration of the fundamental constitutional question resolved by Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, principles of institutional integrity, and the rule of stare decisis require that Roe's essential holding be retained

Page 834

and reaffirmed as to each of its three parts: (1) a recognition of a woman's right to choose to have an abortion before fetal viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State, whose pre-viability interests are not strong enough to support an abortion prohibition or the imposition of substantial obstacles to the woman's effective [112 S.Ct. 2797] right to elect the procedure; (2) a confirmation of the State's power to restrict abortions after viability, if the law contains exceptions for pregnancies endangering a woman's life or health; and (3) 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. Pp. 844-869.

(a) A reexamination of the principles that define the woman's rights and the State's authority regarding abortions is required by the doubt this Court's subsequent decisions have cast upon the meaning and reach of Roe's central holding, by the fact that THE CHIEF JUSTICE would overrule Roe, and by the necessity that state and federal courts and legislatures have adequate guidance on the subject. Pp. 844-845.

(b) Roe determined that a woman's decision to terminate her pregnancy is a "liberty" protected against state interference by the substantive component of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Neither the Bill of Rights nor the specific practices of States at the time of the Fourteenth Amendment's adoption marks the outer limits of the substantive sphere of such "liberty." Rather, the adjudication of substantive due process claims may require this Court to exercise its reasoned judgment in determining the boundaries between the individual's liberty and the demands of organized society. The Court's decisions have afforded constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, see, e.g., Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, procreation, Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, family relationships, Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, child rearing and education, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, and contraception, see, e.g., Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, and have recognized the right of the individual to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child, Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 453. Roe's central holding properly invoked the reasoning and tradition of these precedents. Pp. 846-853.

(c) Application of the doctrine of stare decisis confirms that Roe's essential holding should be reaffirmed. In reexamining that holding, the Court's judgment is informed by a series of prudential and pragmatic considerations designed to test the consistency of overruling the holding with the ideal of the rule of law, and to gauge the respective costs of reaffirming and overruling. Pp. 854-855.

Page 835

(d) Although Roe has engendered opposition, it has in no sense proven unworkable, representing as it does a simple limitation beyond which a state law is unenforceable. P. 855.

(e) The Roe rule's limitation on state power could not be repudiated without serious inequity to people who, for two decades of economic and social developments, have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail. The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives. The Constitution serves human values, and while the effect of reliance on Roe cannot be exactly measured, neither can the certain costs of overruling Roe for people who have ordered their thinking and living around that case be dismissed. Pp. 855-856.

(f) No evolution of legal principle has left Roe's central rule a doctrinal anachronism discounted by society. If Roe is placed among the cases exemplified by Griswold, supra, it is clearly in no jeopardy, since subsequent constitutional developments have neither disturbed, nor do they threaten to diminish, the liberty recognized in such [112 S.Ct. 2798] cases. Similarly, if Roe is seen as stating a rule of personal autonomy and bodily integrity, akin to cases recognizing limits on governmental power to mandate medical treatment or to bar its rejection, this Court's post-Roe decisions accord with Roe's view that a State's interest in the protection of life falls short of justifying any plenary override of individual liberty claims. See, e.g., Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health, 497 U.S. 261. Finally, if Roe is classified as sui generis, there clearly has been no erosion of its central determination. It was expressly reaffirmed in Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 462 U.S. 416 (Akron I), and Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 476 U.S. 747; and, in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. 490, a majority either voted to reaffirm or declined to address the constitutional validity of Roe's central holding. Pp. 857-859.

(g) No change in Roe's factual underpinning has left its central holding obsolete, and none supports an argument for its overruling. Although subsequent maternal health care advances allow for later abortions safe to the pregnant woman, and post-Roe neonatal care developments have advanced viability to a point somewhat earlier, these facts go only to the scheme of time limits on the realization of competing interests. Thus, any later divergences from the factual premises of Roe have no bearing on the validity of its central holding, that viability marks the earliest point at which the State's interest in fetal

Page 836

life is constitutionally adequate to justify a legislative ban on nontherapeutic abortions. The soundness or unsoundness of that constitutional judgment in no sense turns on when viability occurs. Whenever it may occur, its attainment will continue to serve as the critical fact. Pp. 860.

(h) A comparison between Roe and two decisional lines of comparable significance -- the line identified with Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45, and the line that began with Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 -- confirms the result reached here. Those lines were overruled -- by, respectively, West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379, and Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 -- on the basis of facts, or an understanding of facts, changed from those which furnished the claimed justifications for the earlier constitutional resolutions. The overruling decisions were comprehensible to the Nation, and defensible, as the Court's responses to changed circumstances. In contrast, because neither the factual underpinnings of Roe's central holding nor this Court's understanding of it has changed (and because no other indication of weakened precedent has been shown), the Court could not pretend to be reexamining Roe with any justification beyond a present doctrinal disposition to come out differently from the Roe Court. That is an inadequate basis for overruling a prior case. Pp. 861-864.

(i) Overruling Roe's central holding would not only reach an unjustifiable result under stare decisis principles, but would seriously weaken the Court's capacity to exercise the judicial power and to function as the Supreme Court of a Nation dedicated to the rule of law. Where the Court acts to resolve the sort of unique, intensely divisive controversy reflected in Roe, its decision has a dimension not present in normal cases, and is entitled to rare precedential force to counter the inevitable efforts to overturn it and to thwart its...

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2668 practice notes
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  • Petition For Writ of Certiorari
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    ...and predilections. “Liberty finds no refuge in a jurisprudence of doubt.” Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 844 (1992). 79a Nowhere is this truer than in the case of speech, which is especially vulnerable to uncertainties in the law. This is why we have......
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  • Part VI
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    • Federal Register December 19, 2008
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