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

  • The Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act, had provisions that impeded (but didn’t prevent) women from having an abortion.
    • There were provisions that required doctors to provide information on health risks, that spouses and parents had to be notified, a 24-hour waiting period, and reporting requirements.
  • In a class-action, a number of abortion service providers sued, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional violation of the right to privacy established in Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113 (1973)).
    • Pennsylvania argued that the law didn’t stop women from having an abortion, so it met constitutional standards.
    • Pro-life groups stepped in an argued that Roe should be overturned and abortions made completely illegal.
  • The Trial court found for Planned Parenthood and entered an injunction against the law. Pennsylvania appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. Everybody appealed.
    • The Appellate Court struck down the spousal notification provision, but upheld the rest.
  • The US Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The US Supreme Court cited stare decisis as the basis for their decision. They found that the Court needed to stand by prior decisions even if they were unpopular, unless there had been a change in the fundamental reasoning underpinning the previous decision.
      • Basically, the Court found that they shouldn’t change the law just because the members of the Supreme Court had changed. They should only change the law when society and/or legal philosophy had changed.
        • For example, how Brown v. Board of Education (347 U.S. 483 (1954)) overruled Plessy v. Ferguson (163 U.S. 537 (1896) with regards to the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine.
    • Based partially on stare decisis, the Court upheld the “essential holding” of Roe. They found that the right to have an abortion is grounded in the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.
      • The Court looked to Eisenstadt v. Baird (405 U.S. 438 (1972)) which said, “if the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”
    • The Court did overrule the standard of review established in Roe (strict scrutiny), with the lesser undue burden standard.
      • Undue burden is defined as one having “the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”
      • The Court did reiterate that a State may enact regulations to further the health and safety of a woman seeking an abortion, as long as the regulation does not impose an undue burden.
        • The Court did not specify exactly what would make something an undue burden. It is to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
      • In general fundamental rights require strict scrutiny review. Did this decision imply that reproductive autonomy is no longer considered a fundamental right?
    • The Court did modify the “1st trimester” test established in Roe with a “viability” test that said the balance tips towards the State’s interest in protecting the life of the baby occurs when the fetus is viable, not at the end of the 1st trimester.
    • The Court had this to say about the spousal notification provision:
      • “For the great many women who are victims of abuse inflicted by their husbands, or whose children are the victims of such abuse, a spousal notice requirement enables the husband to wield an effective veto over his wife’s decision. Whether the prospect of notification itself deters such women from seeking abortions, or whether the husband, through physical force or psychological pressure or economic coercion, prevents his wife from obtaining an abortion until it is too late, the notice requirement will often be tantamount to the veto found unconstitutional in Danforth. The women most affected by this law—those who most reasonably fear the consequences of notifying their husbands that they are pregnant—are in the gravest danger.”