Here is a summary of the major Supreme Court cases on abortion.
Roe vs. Wade 1/22/73
Declared that under an individual’s fundamental 14th Amendment right of privacy, states may not ban abortion. It held the fetus is not a person and left abortion decisions solely between a woman and her doctor in the first trimester, with reasonable state regulation permitted later to protect the mother and eventually to shield a viable fetus.
Doe vs. Bolton 1/22/73
Restricted the scope of permissible state regulation, overturning a law requiring the procedure be done only in hospitals, only for residents of that state and only with permission by a hospital committee and two outside physicians.
Bigelow vs. Virginia, Connecticut vs. Menillo 6/16/75
Bigelow allowed abortion clinics to advertise. Menillo said that despite Roe, state prohibitions against abortion stood as applied to non-physicians. states could also authorize non-physicians to perform abortions.
Singleton vs. Wulff 7/1/76
Allowed abortionists to challenge abortion-funding restrictions on behalf of their female patients. Previously, only a patient had standing in abortion cases, so this ruling had a significant impact on abortion legislation.
Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri vs. Danforth 7/1/76
Allowed the state to require record keeping of abortions performed and signed consent by the woman. Declared it unconstitutional to require doctors to exercise care to preserve fetal life and overturned a ban on saline abortions after first 12 weeks of pregnancy and a requirement that a husband consent to abortion.
Poelker vs. Doe 6/20/77
A state can prohibit the performance of abortions in public hospitals.
Maher vs. Susan Roe, Beal vs. Doe 6/20/77
Medicaid need not pay expenses for non-therapeutic elective abortions simply because it pays expenses for childbirth, because the state has a legitimate interest in preserving life.
Colautti vs. Franklin 1/9/79
Although Roe said states could pursue an interest in the “potential life” of the unborn child after viability (Roe placed this at the third trimester), the Court struck down a Pennsylvania statute that required abortionists to use the abortion technique most likely to result in live birth if the fetus is viable.
Bellotti vs. Baird (II*) 7/2/79
Set the standard for parental consent legislation. The Court struck down a Massachusetts law requiring a minor to obtain the consent of both parents before obtaining an abortion, insisting that states wanting to offer a “judicial bypass” exception by which the child could demonstrate her maturity to a judge or show that the abortion would somehow be in her best interest.
*In Bellotti v. Baird (l) 1976, the Court returned case to the state court on a procedural issue.
Harris vs. McRae 6/30/80
States are not obliged to fund medically necessary abortions for which federal funds are blocked by the Hyde amendment.
Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services 7/3/89
Upheld Missouri’s ban on using state facilities or employees to perform elective non-therapeutic abortions and upheld a requirement that medical tests determined a fetus’ chance for viability.
Williams vs. Zbaraz 6/30/80
States are not required to fund abortions that are not funded by the federal government, but can opt to do so.
HL vs. Matheson 3/23/81
Upholding a Utah statute, the Court ruled that a state could require an abortionist to notify one of the minor girl’s parents before performing an abortion without judicial bypass.
City of Akron vs. Akron Center for Reproductive Health 6/15/83
The Court struck down an ordinance passed by the City of Akron requiring: (1) that abortionists inform their clients of the medical risks of abortion, of fetal development and of abortion alternatives; (2) a 24-hour waiting period after the first visit before obtaining an abortion; (3) that second- and third-trimester abortions be performed in hospitals; (4) one-parent parental consent with no judicial bypass; (5) and the “humane and sanitary” disposal of fetal remains. Later, the Court reversed some of this ruling in Casey.
Planned Parenthood Association of Kansas City vs. Ashcroft 6/15/83
Upheld a Missouri law requiring that post-viability abortions be attended by a second physician and that a pathology report be filed for each abortion.
Simopoulos vs. Virginia 6/15/83
Affirmed conviction of an abortionist for performing a second-trimester abortion in an improperly licensed facility.
Thornburgh vs. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 6/11/86
Struck down a Pennsylvania law requiring: (1) that abortionists inform their clients regarding fetal development and the medical risks of abortion; (2) reporting of information about the mother and the unborn child for second- and third-trimester abortions; (3) that the physician use the method of abortion most likely to preserve the life of a viable unborn child; and (4) the attendance of a second physician in post-viability abortions. Later, the Court reversed some of this ruling (see Casey below).
Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services 7/3/89
Upheld Missouri statute prohibiting the use of public facilities or personnel for abortions and requiring abortionists to determine the viability of the unborn child after 20 weeks.
Hodgson vs. Minnesota, Ohio vs. Akron Center for Reproductive Health 6/25/90
In Hodgson, the Court struck down Minnesota statute requiring two-parent notification without a judicial bypass, but upheld the same provision with a judicial bypass. In the same decision, the Court allowed a 48-hour waiting period for minors following parental notification. In Ohio v. Akron, the Court upheld one-parent notification with judicial bypass.
Rust vs. Sullivan 5/23/91
Upheld federal regulation prohibiting Title X family planning clinic personnel from counseling or referring women regarding abortion. If a clinic physically and financially separated abortion services from family planning services, the family planning component could still receive Title X money. Relying on Maher and Harris, the Court emphasized that the government is not obliged to fund abortion-related services, even if it funds parental care or childbirth.
Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Casey 6/29/92
Decided to apply the test of whether a state regulation creates an “undue burden” on a woman’s access to abortion, replacing the trimester rule established in 1973. Under the new standard, the Court accepted a 24-hour waiting period, informed consent guidelines, parental consent in some cases, and reporting and record keeping requirements. The Court rejected a provision that the woman’s spouse be notified, saying that constitutes an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion.
Mazurek vs. Armstrong 6/16/97
Upheld Montana law requiring that only licensed physicians perform abortions.
Stenberg vs. Carhart 6/28/00
Nebraska (as did more than half the other states) passed a law to ban partial-birth abortion, a method in which the premature infant (usually in the fifth or sixth month) is delivered alive, feet first, until only the head remains in the womb. The abortionist then punctures the baby’s skull and removes her brain. On a 5-4 vote, the Court shuck down the Nebraska law (and thereby rendered the other state laws unenforceable, as well). The five justices said that the Nebraska legislature had defined the method too vaguely. In addition, the five justices held that Roe v. Wade requires that an abortionist be allowed to use even this method, even on a healthy woman, if he believes it is the safest method.
Gonzalez, Attorney General vs. Carhart 4/18/07
Upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by Congress in 2003. The gruesome partial birth abortion procedure involved removing the entire body of the live baby, then killing the baby by piercing or crushing the skull of the baby before removing the baby from the birth canal. In the majority decision, the Court ruled that the general ban on the method is permissible and does not violate the general “abortion right” enunciated in past decisions such as Roe v. Wade (1973) and Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1992).
(Source: Some of the Court case info is from The National Right to Life’s Education Fund’s flyer: Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion)