Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey
Annotate this Case
505 U.S. 833 (1992)
OCTOBER TERM, 1991
PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA ET AL. v. CASEY, GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
No. 91-744. Argued April 22, 1992-Decided June 29, 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.
947 F.2d 682: 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 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 re-
*Together with No. 91-902, Casey, Governor of Pennsylvania, et al. v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania et al., also on certiorari to the same court.
tained 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 previability interests are not strong enough to support an abortion prohibition or the imposition of substantial obstacles to the woman's effective 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 ex rel. Williamson, 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, 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.
(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 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, Mo. Dept. of Health, 497 U. S. 261, 278. 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, Inc., 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
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. P.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 implementation. Only the most convincing justification under accepted standards of precedent could suffice to demonstrate that a later decision overruling the first was anything but a surrender to political pressure and an unjustified repudiation of the principle on which the Court staked its authority in the first instance. Moreover, the country's loss of confidence in the Judiciary would be underscored by condemnation for the Court's failure to keep faith with those who support the decision at a cost to themselves. A decision to overrule Roe's essential holding under the existing circumstances would address error, if error there was, at the cost of both profound and unnecessary damage to the Court's legitimacy and to the N ation's commitment to the rule of law. Pp. 864-869.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR, JUSTICE KENNEDY, and JUSTICE SOUTER concluded in Part IV that an examination of Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113, and
subsequent cases, reveals a number of guiding principles that should control the assessment of the Pennsylvania statute:
(a) To protect the central right recognized by Roe while at the same time accommodating the State's profound interest in potential life, see id., at 162, the undue burden standard should be employed. An undue burden exists, and therefore a provision of law is invalid, if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.
(b) Roe's rigid trimester framework is rejected. To promote the State's interest in potential life throughout pregnancy, the State may take measures to ensure that the woman's choice is informed. Measures designed to advance this interest should not be invalidated if their purpose is to persuade the woman to choose childbirth over abortion. These measures must not be an undue burden on the right.
(c) As with any medical procedure, the State may enact regulations to further the health or safety of a woman seeking an abortion, but may not impose unnecessary health regulations that present a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion.
(d) Adoption of the undue burden standard does not disturb Roe's holding that regardless of whether exceptions are made for particular circumstances, a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.
(e) Roe's holding that "subsequent to viability, the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother" is also reaffirmed. Id., at 164-165. Pp.869-879.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR, JUSTICE KENNEDY, and JUSTICE SOUTER delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts V-A and V-C, concluding that:
1. As construed by the Court of Appeals, § 3203's medical emergency definition is intended to assure that compliance with the State's abortion regulations would not in any way pose a significant threat to a woman's life or health, and thus does not violate the essential holding of Roe, supra, at 164. Although the definition could be interpreted in an unconstitutional manner, this Court defers to lower federal court interpretations of state law unless they amount to "plain" error. Pp. 879-880.
2. Section 3209's husband notification provision constitutes an undue burden and is therefore invalid. A significant number of women will likely be prevented from obtaining an abortion just as surely as if Pennsylvania had outlawed the procedure entirely. The fact that § 3209 may affect fewer than one percent of women seeking abortions does not save it from facial invalidity, since the proper focus of constitutional inquiry
is the group for whom the law is a restriction, not the group for whom it is irrelevant. Furthermore, it cannot be claimed that the father's interest in the fetus' welfare is equal to the mother's protected liberty, since it is an inescapable biological fact that state regulation with respect to the fetus will have a far greater impact on the pregnant woman's bodily integrity than it will on the husband. Section 3209 embodies a view of marriage consonant with the common-law status of married women but repugnant to this Court's present understanding of marriage and of the nature of the rights secured by the Constitution. See Planned Parenthood of Central Mo. v. Danforth, 428 U. S. 52, 69. Pp.887-898.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR, JUSTICE KENNEDY, and JUSTICE SOUTER, joined by JUSTICE STEVENS, concluded in Part V-E that all of the statute's recordkeeping and reporting requirements, except that relating to spousal notice, are constitutional. The reporting provision relating to the reasons a married woman has not notified her husband that she intends to have an abortion must be invalidated because it places an undue burden on a woman's choice. Pp. 900-901.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR, JUSTICE KENNEDY, and JUSTICE SOUTER concluded in Parts V-B and V-D that:
1. Section 3205's informed consent provision is not an undue burden on a woman's constitutional right to decide to terminate a pregnancy. To the extent Akron I, 462 U. S., at 444, and Thornburgh, 476 U. S., at 762, find a constitutional violation when the government requires, as it does here, the giving of truthful, nonmisleading information about the nature of the abortion procedure, the attendant health risks and those of childbirth, and the "probable gestational age" of the fetus, those cases are inconsistent with Roe's acknowledgment of an important interest in potential life, and are overruled. Requiring that the woman be informed of the availability of information relating to the consequences to the fetus does not interfere with a constitutional right of privacy between a pregnant woman and her physician, since the doctor-patient relation is derivative of the woman's position, and does not underlie or override the abortion right. Moreover, the physician's First Amendment rights not to speak are implicated only as part of the practice of medicine, which is licensed and regulated by the State. There is no evidence here that requiring a doctor to give the required information would amount to a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion. The premise behind Akron I's invalidation of a waiting period between the provision of the information deemed necessary to informed consent and the performance of an abortion, 462 U. S., at 450, is also wrong. Although § 3205's 24-hour waiting period may make some abortions more expensive and less convenient, it cannot be said that it is invalid
on the present record and in the context of this facial challenge. Pp. 881-887.
2. Section 3206's one-parent consent requirement and judicial bypass procedure are constitutional. See, e. g., Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 497 U. S. 502, 510-519. Pp. 899-900.
JUSTICE BLACKMUN concluded that application of the strict scrutiny standard of review required by this Court's abortion precedents results in the invalidation of all the challenged provisions in the Pennsylvania statute, including the reporting requirements, and therefore concurred in the judgment that the requirement that a pregnant woman report her reasons for failing to provide spousal notice is unconstitutional. Pp. 930, 934-936.
THE CHIEF JUSTICE, joined by JUSTICE WHITE, JUSTICE SCALIA, and JUSTICE THOMAS, concluded that:
1. Although Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113, is not directly implicated by the Pennsylvania statute, which simply regulates and does not prohibit abortion, a reexamination of the "fundamental right" Roe accorded to a woman's decision to abort a fetus, with the concomitant requirement that any state regulation of abortion survive "strict scrutiny," id., at 154-156, is warranted by the confusing and uncertain state of this Court's post-Roe decisional law. A review of post-Roe cases demonstrates both that they have expanded upon Roe in imposing increasingly greater restrictions on the States, see Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 476 U. S. 747, 783 (Burger, C. J., dissenting), and that the Court has become increasingly more divided, none of the last three such decisions having commanded a majority opinion, see Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 497 U. S. 502; Hodgson v. Minnesota, 497 U. S. 417; Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U. S. 490. This confusion and uncertainty complicated the task of the Court of Appeals, which concluded that the "undue burden" standard adopted by JUSTICE O'CONNOR in Webster and Hodgson governs the present cases. Pp. 944-951.
2. The Roe Court reached too far when it analogized the right to abort a fetus to the rights involved in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U. S. 510; Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390; Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1; and Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479, and thereby deemed the right to abortion to be "fundamental." None of these decisions endorsed an all-encompassing "right of privacy," as Roe, supra, at 152-153, claimed. Because abortion involves the purposeful termination of potential life, the abortion decision must be recognized as sui generis, different in kind from the rights protected in the earlier cases under the rubric of personal or family privacy and autonomy. And the historical traditions of the American people-as evidenced by the English common
law and by the American abortion statutes in existence both at the time of the Fourteenth Amendment's adoption and Roe's issuance-do not support the view that the right to terminate one's pregnancy is "fundamental." Thus, enactments abridging that right need not be subjected to strict scrutiny. Pp. 951-953.
3. The undue burden standard adopted by the joint opinion of JusTICES O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, and SOUTER has no basis in constitutional law and will not result in the sort of simple limitation, easily applied, which the opinion anticipates. To evaluate abortion regulations under that standard, judges will have to make the subjective, unguided determination whether the regulations place "substantial obstacles" in the path of a woman seeking an abortion, undoubtedly engendering a variety of conflicting views. The standard presents nothing more workable than the trimester framework the joint opinion discards, and will allow the Court, under the guise of the Constitution, to continue to impart its own preferences on the States in the form of a complex abortion code. Pp. 964-966.
4. The correct analysis is that set forth by the plurality opinion in Webster, supra: A woman's interest in having an abortion is a form of liberty protected by the Due Process Clause, but States may regulate abortion procedures in ways rationally related to a legitimate state interest. P. 966.
5. Section 3205's requirements are rationally related to the State's legitimate interest in assuring that a woman's consent to an abortion be fully informed. The requirement that a physician disclose certain information about the abortion procedure and its risks and alternatives is not a large burden and is clearly related to maternal health and the State's interest in informed consent. In addition, a State may rationally decide that physicians are better qualified than counselors to impart this information and answer questions about the abortion alternatives' medical aspects. The requirement that information be provided about the availability of paternal child support and state-funded alternatives is also related to the State's informed consent interest and furthers the State's interest in preserving unborn life. That such information might create some uncertainty and persuade some women to forgo abortions only demonstrates that it might make a difference and is therefore relevant to a woman's informed choice. In light of this plurality's rejection of Roe's "fundamental right" approach to this subject, the Court's contrary holding in Thornburgh is not controlling here. For the same reason, this Court's previous holding invalidating a State's 24-hour mandatory waiting period should not be followed. The waiting period helps ensure that a woman's decision to abort is a well-considered one, and rationally furthers the State's legitimate interest in maternal health and
in unborn life. It may delay, but does not prohibit, abortions; and both it and the informed consent provisions do not apply in medical emergencies. Pp. 966-970.
6. The statute's parental consent provision is entirely consistent with this Court's previous decisions involving such requirements. See, e. g., Planned Parenthood Assn. of Kansas City, Mo., Inc. v. Ashcroft, 462 U. S. 476. It is reasonably designed to further the State's important and legitimate interest "in the welfare of its young citizens, whose immaturity, inexperience, and lack of judgment may sometimes impair their ability to exercise their rights wisely." Hodgson, supra, at 444. Pp. 970-971.
7. Section 3214(a)'s requirement that abortion facilities file a report on each abortion is constitutional because it rationally furthers the State's legitimate interests in advancing the state of medical knowledge concerning maternal health and prenatal life, in gathering statistical information with respect to patients, and in ensuring compliance with other provisions of the Act, while keeping the reports completely confidential. Public disclosure of other reports made by facilities receiving public funds-those identifying the facilities and any parent, subsidiary, or affiliated organizations, § 3207(b), and those revealing the total number of abortions performed, broken down by trimester, § 3214(f)-are rationally related to the State's legitimate interest in informing taxpayers as to who is benefiting from public funds and what services the funds are supporting; and records relating to the expenditure of public funds are generally available to the public under Pennsylvania law. Pp. 976-977.
JUSTICE SCALIA, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE WHITE, and JUSTICE THOMAS, concluded that a woman's decision to abort her unborn child is not a constitutionally protected "liberty" because (1) the Constitution says absolutely nothing about it, and (2) the longstanding traditions of American society have permitted it to be legally proscribed. See, e. g., Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 497 U. S. 502, 520 (SCALIA, J., concurring). The Pennsylvania statute should be upheld in its entirety under the rational basis test. Pp. 979-981.
O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III, V-A, V-C, and VI, in which BLACKMUN and STEVENS, JJ., joined, an opinion with respect to Part V-E, in which STEVENS, J., joined, and an opinion with respect to Parts IV, V-B, and V-Do STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 911. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, concurring in the judgment in part, and dissenting in part, post, p. 922. REHNQUIST, C. J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, in which
WHITE, SCALIA, and THOMAS, JJ., joined, post, p. 944. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and WHITE and THOMAS, JJ., joined, post, p. 979.