In the 1980s, the Pennsylvania legislature sought to limit abortions by imposing a number of requirements on women seeking abortions. These requirements included informed consent, a 24-hour waiting period, parental consent if the woman was a minor, and spousal consent if the woman was married.
Several abortion clinics and physicians sued, arguing that the regulations impermissibly infringed upon a womans right to choose an abortion. In a very close decision that pleased neither side of the abortion debate and produced bitter opinions from the justices, the Court reaffirmed the right of women to terminate their pregnancies, but also allowed all but one of the restrictions to stand. The only restriction struck down by the Court was the requirement for a married woman to acquire the consent of her spouse before obtaining an abortion.
In its decision, the Court fashioned a new standard for determining whether a law restricting abortions is valid. According to the Court, restrictions are fine so long as they dont impose an undue burden on women seeking abortions.
505 U.S. 833 (1992)
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.
To read the rest of the opinion in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, go to Nolos US Supreme Court Center.