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Supreme Court and Choice

Federal Abortion Ban

On April 18, 2007, the Supreme Court handed down its decision to uphold the Federal Abortion Ban in Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood.This decision shows Bush's appointees have moved the Court in a direction that could further undermine Roe v. Wade and protections for women's health.

The door is now open for politicians to interfere even more in our personal, private medical decisions. The Court has given anti-choice state lawmakers the green light to open the flood gates and launch additional attacks on safe, legal abortion, without any regard for women's health.

CASES THAT SHAPED CHOICE


Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

By a vote of 7-2, the Supreme Court struck down a Connecticut law that banned married couples from using birth control, declaring that the statute violated the constitutional right to marital privacy. (The Court extended this right to obtain birth control to unmarried people in a later case, Eisenstadt v. Baird.) The Griswold decision laid the foundation for future court decisions regarding the right to privacy's application to reproductive rights.

Roe v. Wade (1973)
By a vote of 7-2, the Court struck down a Texas law that prohibited abortion unless a woman's life was threatened. The Court held that the fundamental right to privacy extends to a woman's decision whether or not to continue a pregnancy and that any governmental interference with that right is subject to a strict review by the courts. Two decades later, in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Court upheld the core holding of Roe, but reduced some of its protections to allow many more restrictions on abortion.

Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989)
By a vote of 5-4, the Court upheld anti-choice provisions of a Missouri statute. Webster was a significant case because for the first time in the 16 years since Roe v. Wade was decided, only a minority of the justices on the Court voted to reaffirm the tenets of Roe.

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992)
By a vote of 5-4, the Court reaffirmed the "essential holding” of Roe v. Wade and struck down a provision of Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act that required women to notify their husbands of their decision to seek abortion care. However, by a vote of 7-2, the Court upheld other provisions of the Act, including a requirement that women seeking abortions be subject to biased counseling and a mandatory delay of at least 24 hours. The Court allowed these provisions to stand under the "undue burden” standard, which overturned Roe's requirement that abortion restrictions be subject to strict scrutiny and opened the floodgates to hundreds of new restrictions on choice in the ensuing years.

Stenberg v. Carhart (2000)
By a vote of 5-4, the Court narrowly struck down a Nebraska law that could have banned abortion as early as the 12th week in pregnancy. The Court held the law unconstitutional because it had no exception to protect a woman's health, and because it was overly broad. The 5-4 vote in Stenberg was particularly significant because Justice Kennedy, who had voted to reaffirm Roe in Casey, sided with anti-choice Justices in eviscerating a core principle of Roe – that any attempt to restrict abortion care must include an exception to protect a woman's health.

 
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