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Choice Related Supreme Court Cases

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) The Supreme Court invalidated a Connecticut statute that prohibited the use of contraceptives, stating that it violated the constitutional right to marital privacy.

Consequence: Made contraceptives legal for married individuals.

Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) The Court extended the Griswold decision by invalidating a law that prohibited the distribution of contraceptives to unmarried people, stating that the right to privacy covers individuals that are unmarried as well as married.

Consequence: Made contraceptives legal for unmarried individuals.

Roe v. Wade (1973) This case remains the single most groundbreaking case concerning reproductive rights. The Court ruled that the fundamental right to privacy extends to a women's decision whether or not to have an abortion and that governmental interference with that right is subject to judicial scrutiny. States may regulate the abortion procedure after the first trimester to protect women's health.

Consequence: Constitutionally protected a woman's right to choose to have an abortion.

Doe v. Bolton (1973) The Court overruled a Georgia law that stated that abortions must be performed in a hospital, a woman must secure the approval of three physicians before obtaining an abortion, and the woman must be a resident of the state where the abortion is performed. This recognized abortion as a constitutional right and defined a women's health in many ways, not just a physical state.

Consequence: Found undue burdens to accessing an abortion unconstitutional.

Bellotti v. Baird (1976 and 1979) The Court ruled that a district court in Massachusetts should have abstained from a constitutional decision concerning a statute requiring parental consent for abortions. In some states, minors need to receive the consent of one parent before obtaining an abortion. Some states allow minors to seek a state judge's consent instead. Parental consent to an abortion is particular to what state the women lives in, however, if a federal court rules a case to be unconstitutional, it may use the supremacy clause to overturn the state's decision.

Consequence: Ruled parental consent laws to be a state issue and not a federal issue.

Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth (1976) The Court invalidated provisions of a Missouri law that: required a married woman to obtain consent from her husband for an abortion, required physicians to preserve the life of the fetus at every stage in a pregnancy, and prohibited the use of saline amniocentesis (used when a needle is injected into the abdomen, 50-250ml of amniotic liquid is removed and replaced by a concentrated salt solution that will abort the fetus). The Supreme Court upheld statutes that: required facilities to keep confidential records used for statistical purposes, defined viability as "the state of fetal development when the life of the unborn child may be continued indefinitely outside the womb by natural or artificial life supportive systems," and required that a women sign a consent form prior to an abortion.

Consequence: Defined viability and allows a physician, and not a court, to judge the gestation period of the fetus. A married women does not need the consent of to have an abortion.

Carey v. Population Services (1977) The Supreme Court overruled a New York state law prohibiting the sale or distribution of contraceptives to minors.

Consequence: Constitutionally protected the sale of distribution of contraceptives to minors.

Harris v. McRae (1980) The Court upheld the Hyde amendment, prohibiting the use of federal funds or Medicaid program funds for abortions not necessary to preserve a woman's health.

Consequence: The use of federal funds to fund abortions that are not needed to preserve a woman's health remained illegal.

City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health (1983) The Court overturned the City of Akron's provisions that required a physician to give parents anti-abortion information, required a 24 hour delay between signing an abortion consent form and the medical procedure, mandated that all abortions after the first trimester be performed in a hospital, and required that all fetal remains be disposed of in a unspecified "humane and sanitary manner."

Consequence: The Supreme Court found that the provisions "unjustifiably placed a significant obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion," and constituted an attempt to persuade a woman not to have an abortion.

Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989) The Court reaffirmed the Roe v. Wade decision and reversed the Circuit Courts decision. However, the court upheld a Missouri statute that prohibited the use of public money, personnel, or facilities to perform an abortion when it is not necessary to save the life of the woman. The ruling also criticized the trimester system of determining the legality of abortion laws, suggesting an alternative standard based on whether a law permissably furthers states' interests in preserving potential life. The ruling was not supposed as opposing Roe v. Wade as it does not apply to abortions before viability of a fetus.

Consequence: The decision requires physicians to perform tests to determine the gestational age and lung maturity of the fetus when he or she has reason to believe that a woman is at least 20 weeks pregnant. In addition, Justice O'Connor's concurrent position introduced the idea of limiting abortion laws based on the presence of an "undue burden" for a woman seeking an abortion, which was defined as a "substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking the abortion of a nonviable fetus."

Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992) The Court upheld Roe v. Wade but changed the standard of interpretation from one based on the trimester/viability structure to one based on the "undue burden" standard, by which the states can place restrictions on abortion as long as there is no "undue burden" placed on a woman obtaining an abortion before the fetus "attains viability".

Consequence: The ruling reversed the 1983 Akron decision, upheld the Bellotti v. Baird decision. A statute was added that requires physicians to provide parents with anti-abortion information, a 24-hour delay between receiving the information and the medical procedure, making reports available to the public that include the names of abortion clinics that receive state funds, and minors to obtain parental consent or a state judge's permission. Although this ruling allowed a delay of the procedure, it also contained a provision by which an immediate abortion could not be delayed if the woman's health is significantly threatened. It also banned Pennsylvania's law requiring spousal notification prior to an abortion. This ruling also changed responsibility of the burden of proof from the state to the citizen, requiring challenges to abortion law to prove a given law creates an undue burden for a majority of women seeking an abortion.

Madsen v. Women's Health Center (1994) The Court upheld provisions that created a 36 foot "buffer" zone outside the entrance of reproductive health clinics and prohibited anti-choice protesters from making noise that could be heard by patients inside the clinic during surgical procedure hours.

Consequence: Constitutionally protected clinic bubble laws.

Mazurek v. Armstrong (1997) The Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling that would have allowed health care providers to challenge a Montanan law banning the performance of an abortion by a licensed physician's assistant working under the supervision of a doctor.

Consequence: Licensed physicians are the only medical personnel allowed to perform abortions.

Stenberg v. Carhart (2000) The Court struck down a Nebraskan law that could have banned abortion as early as the 12th week of pregnancy. This law was ruled unconstitutional because it did not provide exceptions to protect a woman's health.

Consequence: Abortion bans that do not protect a woman's health are unconstitutional.

Hill v. Colorado (2000) The Court upheld a provision prohibiting a person from being within 8 feet of another person without consent for the purpose of: passing-out a leaflet or handbill, displaying a sign or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling within 100 ft. of a clinic entrance. It ruled that states have an interest in protecting the health and safety of its citizens, and this interest "may justify a special focus on unimpeded access to health care facilities and the avoidance of potential trauma to patients associated with confrontational protests."

Consequence: Expanded the decision in Madsen v. Women's Health Center.

Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (2006) The Court ruled that abortion restrictions must contain an exception to protect women's health in 2003, and concluded that the Federal Abortion Ban failed to protect a woman's health. In 2006, the Court returned the case to the lower courts, on technical grounds, to determine whether an injunction could solve the law's constitutional error. The repeal process came into effect March 2007, where it passed the House and now is being debated by the Senate if this parental consent case is central to a women's right to choose and should be voted on.
Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood (2007) - The Court ruled (5-4) that the Federal Abortion Ban of 2003 is constitutional without protection for a woman's health, since it has a protection for a woman's life.

Consequence: A particular abortion procedure is banned putting women's health at risk and making abortion less safe for some women.

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