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5.5: The Undue Burden Standard

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    Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992)

    505 U.S. 833 (1992)

    Vote: 5- 4
    Decision: Affirmed in part and reversed in part
    Majority: O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter (Parts I, II, III, V-A, V-C, and VI), joined by Blackmun and Stevens
    Plurality: O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter joined by Stevens
    Concurrence/ Dissent: Stevens, Blackmun, Rehnquist, Thomas, White

    JUSTICE O’CONNOR, JUSTICE KENNEDY, and JUSTICE SOUTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

    After considering the fundamental constitutional questions resolved by Roe, principles of institutional integrity, and the rule of stare decisis, we are led to conclude this: the essential holding of Roe v. Wade should be retained and once again reaffirmed. It must be stated at the outset and with clarity that Roe‘s essential holding, the holding we reaffirm, has three parts. First is a recognition of the right of the woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State. Before viability, the State’s interests are not strong enough to support a prohibition of abortion or the imposition of a substantial obstacle to the woman’s effective right to elect the procedure. Second is a confirmation of the State’s power to restrict abortions after fetal viability, if the law contains exceptions for pregnancies which endanger the woman’s life or health. And third is 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. These principles do not contradict one another; and we adhere to each …

    Constitutional protection of the woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy derives from the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It declares that no State shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The controlling word in the cases before us is “liberty.” Although a literal reading of the Clause might suggest that it governs only the procedures by which a State may deprive persons of liberty, for at least 105 years, since Mugler v. Kansas (1887), the Clause has been understood to contain a substantive component as well, one “barring certain government actions regardless of the fairness of the procedures used to implement them …”

    We have seen how time has overtaken some of Roe‘s factual assumptions: advances in maternal health care allow for abortions safe to the mother later in pregnancy than was true in 1973, see Akron I and advances in neonatal care have advanced viability to a point somewhat earlier. But these facts go only to the scheme of time limits on the realization of competing interests, and the divergences from the factual premises of 1973 have no bearing on the validity of Roe‘s 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 sum of the precedential enquiry to this point shows Roe‘s underpinnings unweakened in any way affecting its central holding. While it has engendered disapproval, it has not been unworkable. An entire generation has come of age free to assume Roe‘s concept of liberty in defining the capacity of women to act in society, and to make reproductive decisions; no erosion of principle going to liberty or personal autonomy has left Roe‘s central holding a doctrinal remnant Roe portends no developments at odds with other precedent for the analysis of personal liberty; and no changes of fact have rendered viability more or less appropriate as the point at which the balance of interests tips. Within the bounds of normal stare decisis analysis, then, and subject to the considerations on which it customarily turns, the stronger argument is for affirming Roe‘s central holding, with whatever degree of personal reluctance any of us may have, not for overruling it.

    Roe established a trimester framework to govern abortion regulations. Under this elaborate but rigid construct, almost no regulation at all is permitted during the first trimester of pregnancy; regulations designed to protect the woman’s health, but not to further the State’s interest in potential life, are permitted during the second trimester; and during the third trimester, when the fetus is viable, prohibitions are permitted provided the life or health of the mother is not at stake. Roe, supra, at 163-166. Most of our cases since Roe have involved the application of rules derived from the trimester framework. See, e. g., Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, supra; Akron I, supra.

    The trimester framework no doubt was erected to ensure that the woman’s right to choose not become so subordinate to the State’s interest in promoting fetal life that her choice exists in theory but not in fact. We do not agree, however, that the trimester approach is necessary to accomplish this objective. A framework of this rigidity was unnecessary and in its later interpretation sometimes contradicted the State’s permissible exercise of its powers.

    We reject the trimester framework, which we do not consider to be part of the essential holding of Roe

    … The very notion that the State has a substantial interest in potential life leads to the conclusion that not all regulations must be deemed unwarranted. Not all burdens on the right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy will be undue. In our view, the undue burden standard is the appropriate means of reconciling the State’s interest with the woman’s constitutionally protected liberty.

    … A finding of an undue burden is a shorthand for the conclusion that a state regulation has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus. A statute with this purpose is invalid because the means chosen by the State to further the interest in potential life must be calculated to inform the woman’s free choice, not hinder it. And a statute which, while furthering the interest in potential life or some other valid state interest, has the effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman’s choice cannot be considered a permissible means of serving its legitimate ends.

    We give this summary:

    … We reject the rigid trimester framework of Roe v. Wade. 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 …

    … As with any medical procedure, the State may enact regulations to further the health or safety of a woman seeking an abortion. Unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion impose an undue burden on the right.

    Whether the mandatory 24-hour waiting period is nonetheless invalid because in practice it is a substantial obstacle to a woman’s choice to terminate her pregnancy is a closer question. … [T]he District Court found that for those women who have the fewest financial resources, those who must travel long distances, and those who have difficulty explaining their whereabouts to husbands, employers, or others, the 24-hour waiting period will be “particularly burdensome …”

    These findings are troubling in some respects, but they do not demonstrate that the waiting period constitutes an undue burden … Yet, as we have stated, under the undue burden standard a State is permitted to enact persuasive measures which favor childbirth over abortion, even if those measures do not further a health interest. And while the waiting period does limit a physician’s discretion, that is not, standing alone, a reason to invalidate it …

    Section 3209 of Pennsylvania’s abortion law provides, except in cases of medical emergency, that no physician shall perform an abortion on a married woman without receiving a signed statement from the woman that she has notified her spouse that she is about to undergo an abortion. The woman has the option of providing an alternative signed statement certifying that her husband is not the man who impregnated her; that her husband could not be located; that the pregnancy is the result of spousal sexual assault which she has reported; or that the woman believes that notifying her husband will cause him or someone else to inflict bodily injury upon her. A physician who performs an abortion on a married woman without receiving the appropriate signed statement will have his or her license revoked, and is liable to the husband for damages …

    A woman in a shelter or a safe house unknown to her husband is not ‘reasonably likely’ to have bodily harm inflicted upon her by her batterer, however her attempt to notify her husband pursuant to section 3209 could accidentally disclose her whereabouts to her husband. Her fear of future ramifications would be realistic under. the circumstances.” … Because of the nature of the battering relationship, battered women are unlikely to avail themselves of the exceptions to section 3209 of the Act, regardless of whether the section applies to them …” …

    The spousal notification requirement is thus likely to prevent a significant number of women from obtaining an abortion. It does not merely make abortions a little more difficult or expensive to obtain; for many women, it will impose a substantial obstacle. We must not blind ourselves to the fact that the significant number of women who fear for their safety and the safety of their children are likely to be deterred from procuring an abortion as surely as if the Commonwealth had outlawed abortion in all cases …

    The husband’s interest in the life of the child his wife is carrying does not permit the State to empower him with this troubling degree of authority over his wife. The contrary view leads to consequences reminiscent of the common law. A husband has no enforceable right to require a wife to advise him before she exercises her personal choices. If a husband’s interest in the potential life of the child outweighs a wife’s liberty, the State could require a married woman to notify her husband before she uses a postfertilization contraceptive. Perhaps next in line would be a statute requiring pregnant married women to notify their husbands before engaging in conduct causing risks to the fetus. After all, if the husband’s interest in the fetus’ safety is a sufficient predicate for state regulation, the State could reasonably conclude that pregnant wives should notify their husbands before drinking alcohol or smoking …

    We next consider the parental consent provision. Except in a medical emergency, an unemancipated young woman under 18 may not obtain an abortion unless she and one of her parents (or guardian) provides informed consent as defined above. If neither a parent nor a guardian provides consent, a court may authorize the performance of an abortion upon a determination that the young woman is mature and capable of giving informed consent and has in fact given her informed consent, or that an abortion would be in her best interests …

    We have been over most of this ground before. Our cases establish, and we reaffirm today, that a State may require a minor seeking an abortion to obtain the consent of a parent or guardian, provided that there is an adequate judicial bypass procedure. Under these precedents, in our view, the one-parent consent requirement and judicial bypass procedure are constitutional …

    Under the recordkeeping and reporting requirements of the statute, every facility which performs abortions is required to file a report stating its name and address as well as the name and address of any related entity, such as a controlling or subsidiary organization … Every abortion facility must also file quarterly reports showing the number of abortions performed broken down by trimester …

    We think that under this standard, all the provisions at issue here, except that relating to spousal notice, are constitutional. Although they do not relate to the State’s interest in informing the woman’s choice, they do relate to health. The collection of information with respect to actual patients is a vital element of medical research, and so it cannot be said that the requirements serve no purpose other than to make abortions more difficult. Nor do we find that the requirements impose a substantial obstacle to a woman’s choice. At most they might increase the cost of some abortions by a slight amount. While at some point increased cost could become a substantial obstacle, there is no such showing on the record before us …

    Our Constitution is a covenant running from the first generation of Americans to us and then to future generations. It is a coherent succession. Each generation must learn anew that the Constitution’s written terms embody ideas and aspirations that must survive more ages than one.

    We accept our responsibility not to retreat from interpreting the full meaning of the covenant in light of all of our precedents. We invoke it once again to define the freedom guaranteed by the Constitution’s own promise, the promise of liberty …

    It is so ordered.


    Mazurek v. Armstrong (1997)

    520 U.S. 968 (1997)

    PER CURIAM.

    In 1995, the Montana Legislature enacted a statute restricting the performance of abortions to licensed physicians. 1995 Mont. Laws, ch. 321, § 2 (codified at Mont. Code Ann. § 50-20-109 (1995)). Similar rules exist in 40 other States in the Nation. The Montana law was challenged almost immediately by respondents, who are a group of licensed physicians and one physician-assistant practicing in Montana …

    The Court of Appeals never contested this District Court conclusion that there was “insufficient evidence” in the record that the requirement posed a “‘substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion.'” Instead, it held that the physician-only requirement was arguably invalid because its purpose, according to the Court of Appeals, may have been to create a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions. 94 F. 3d, at 567. But even assuming the correctness of the Court of Appeals’ implicit premise-that a legislative purpose to interfere with the constitutionally protected right to abortion without the effect of interfering with that right (here it is uncontested that there was insufficient evidence of a “substantial obstacle” to abortion) could render the Montana law invalid-there is no basis for finding a vitiating legislative purpose here. We do not assume unconstitutional legislative intent even when statutes produce harmful results, see, e. g., Washington v. Davis (1976); much less do we assume it when the results are harmless.

    Respondents claim in this Court that the Montana law must have had an invalid purpose because “all health evidence contradicts the claim that there is any health basis” for the law. Brief in Opposition 7. Respondents contend that “the only extant study comparing the complication rates for first-trimester abortions performed by [physician assistants] with those for first-trimester abortions performed by physicians found no significant difference.” Ibid. But this line of argument is squarely foreclosed by Casey itself. In the course of upholding the physician-only requirement at issue in that case, we emphasized that “[o]ur cases reflect the fact that the Constitution gives the States broad latitude to decide that particular functions may be performed only by licensed professionals, even if an objective assessment might suggest that those same tasks could be performed by others,” (emphasis added). Respondents fall back on the fact that an antiabortion group drafted the Montana law. But that says nothing significant about the legislature’s purpose in passing it.

    It is so ordered.


    Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016)

    579 U.S. 742 (2016)

    Vote: 5-3
    Decision: Reversed
    Majority: Breyer joined by Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan
    Dissent: Alito joined by Thomas, Roberts

    JUSTICE BREYER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

    In Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey (1992), a plurality of the Court concluded that there “exists” an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to decide to have an abortion, and consequently a provision of law is constitutionally invalid, if the “purpose or effect” of the provision “is to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” (Emphasis added.) The plurality added that “[u]nnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion impose an undue burden on the right.” We must here decide whether two provisions of Texas’ House Bill 2 violate the Federal Constitution as interpreted in Casey. The first provision, which we shall call the “admitting-privileges requirement,” says that “[a] physician performing or inducing an abortion … must, on the date the abortion is performed or induced, have active admitting privileges at a hospital that … is located not further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced.” Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 171.0031(a) (West Cum. Supp. 2015). This provision amended Texas law that had previously required an abortion facility to maintain a written protocol “for managing medical emergencies and the transfer of patients requiring further emergency care to a hospital.” 38 Tex. Reg. 6546 (2013). The second provision, which we shall call the “surgical-center requirement,” says that “the minimum standards for an abortion facility must be equivalent to the minimum standards adopted under [the Texas Health and Safety Code section] for ambulatory surgical centers.” Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 245.010(a). We conclude that neither of these provisions confers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes.

    Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, Casey (plurality opinion), and each violates the Federal Constitution.

    In July 2013, the Texas Legislature enacted House Bill 2 (H.B. 2 or Act). In September (before the new law took effect), a group of Texas abortion providers filed an action in Federal District Court seeking facial invalidation of the law’s admitting-privileges provision. In late October, the District Court granted the injunction. But three days later, the Fifth Circuit vacated the injunction, thereby permitting the provision to take effect. The Fifth Circuit subsequently upheld the provision, and set forth its reasons in an opinion released late the following March. In that opinion, the Fifth Circuit pointed to evidence introduced in the District Court the previous October. It noted that Texas had offered evidence designed to show that the admitting-privileges requirement “will reduce the delay in treatment and decrease health risk for abortion patients with critical complications,” and that it would “‘screen out’ untrained or incompetent abortion providers.” (Abbott). The opinion also explained that the plaintiffs had not provided sufficient evidence “that abortion practitioners will likely be unable to comply with the privileges requirement.” The court said that all “of the major Texas cities, including Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio,” would “continue to have multiple clinics where many physicians will have or obtain hospital admitting privileges.” The Abbott plaintiffs did not file a petition for certiorari in this Court.

    On April 6, one week after the Fifth Circuit’s decision, petitioners, a group of abortion providers (many of whom were plaintiffs in the previous lawsuit), filed the present lawsuit in Federal District Court.

    They sought an injunction preventing enforcement of the admitting-privileges provision as applied to physicians at two abortion facilities, one operated by Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen and the other operated by Nova Health Systems in El Paso. They also sought an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the surgical-center provision anywhere in Texas. They claimed that the admitting-privileges provision and the surgical-center provision violated the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, as interpreted in Casey

    [T]he District Court determined that the surgical-center requirement “imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas to seek a previability abortion,” and that the “admitting-privileges requirement, … in conjunction with the ambulatory-surgical-center requirement, imposes an undue burden on the right of women in the Rio Grande Valley, El Paso, and West Texas to seek a previability abortion.” The District Court concluded that the “two provisions” would cause “the closing of almost all abortion clinics in Texas that were operating legally in the fall of 2013,” and thereby create a constitutionally “impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a previability abortion” by “restricting access to previously available legal facilities.” On August 29, 2014, the court enjoined the enforcement of the two provisions …

    Undue Burden—Legal Standard

    We begin with the standard, as described in Casey. We recognize that the “State has a legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that insure maximum safety for the patient.” Roe v. Wade (1973). But, we added, “a statute which, while furthering [a] valid state interest, has the effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman’s choice cannot be considered a permissible means of serving its legitimate ends.” Casey (plurality opinion). Moreover, “[u]nnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion impose an undue burden on the right.”

    Undue Burden-Admitting Privileges Requirement

    We have found nothing in Texas’ record evidence that shows that, compared to prior law (which required a “working arrangement” with a doctor with admitting privileges), the new law advanced Texas’ legitimate interest in protecting women’s health. We add that, when directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 47. This answer is consistent with the findings of the other Federal District Courts that have considered the health benefits of other States’ similar admitting-privileges laws.

    At the same time, the record evidence indicates that the admitting-privileges requirement places a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman’s choice.” Casey (plurality opinion). The District Court found, as of the time the admitting-privileges requirement began to be enforced, the number of facilities providing abortions dropped in half, from about 40 to about 20. Eight abortion clinics closed in the months leading up to the requirement’s effective date. Cf. Brief for Planned Parenthood Federation of America et al. as Amici Curiae (noting that abortion facilities in Waco, San Angelo, and Midland no longer operate because Planned Parenthood is “unable to find local physicians in those communities with privileges who are willing to provide abortions due to the size of those communities and the hostility that abortion providers face”). Eleven more closed on the day the admitting privileges requirement took effect. Other evidence helps to explain why the new requirement led to the closure of clinics. We read that other evidence in light of a brief filed in this Court by the Society of Hospital Medicine.

    … In our view, the record contains sufficient evidence that the admitting privileges requirement led to the closure of half of Texas’ clinics, or thereabouts. Those closures meant fewer doctors, longer waiting times, and increased crowding. Record evidence also supports the finding that after the admitting-privileges provision went into effect, the “number of women of reproductive age living in a county … more than 150 miles from a provider 614 increased from approximately 86,000 to 400,000 … and the number of women living in a county more than 200 miles from a provider from approximately 10,000 to 290,000.” We recognize that increased driving distances do not always constitute an “undue burden.” See Casey (joint opinion of O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter, JJ.). But here, those increases are but one additional burden, which, when taken together with others that the closings brought about, and when viewed in light of the virtual absence of any health benefit, lead us to conclude that the record adequately supports the District Court’s “undue burden” conclusion.

    Undue Burden—Surgical–Center Requirement

    The second challenged provision of Texas’ new law sets forth the surgical center requirement. Prior to enactment of the new requirement, Texas law required abortion facilities to meet a host of health and safety requirements. Under those pre-existing laws, facilities were subject to annual reporting and recordkeeping requirements; a quality assurance program; personnel policies and staffing requirements; physical and environmental requirements; infection control standards; disclosure requirements; patient rights standards; and medical- and clinical-services standards, including anesthesia standards. These requirements are policed by random and announced inspections, at least annually, as well as administrative penalties, injunctions, civil penalties, and criminal penalties for certain violations.

    H.B. 2 added the requirement that an “abortion facility” meet the “minimum standards … for ambulatory surgical centers” under Texas law. The surgical center regulations include, among other things, detailed specifications relating to the size of the nursing staff, building dimensions, and other building requirements. The nursing staff must comprise at least “an adequate number of [registered nurses] on duty to meet the following minimum staff requirements: director of the department (or designee), and supervisory and staff personnel for each service area to assure the immediate availability of [a registered nurse] for emergency care or for any patient when needed,” as well as “a second individual on duty on the premises who is trained and currently certified in basic cardiac life support until all patients have been discharged from the facility” for facilities that provide moderate sedation, such as most abortion facilities. Facilities must include a full surgical suite with an operating room that has “a clear floor area of at least 240 square feet” in which “[t]he minimum clear dimension between built-in cabinets, counters, and shelves shall be 14 feet.” There must be a preoperative patient holding room and a postoperative recovery suite. The former “shall be provided and arranged in a one-way traffic pattern so that patients entering from outside the surgical suite can change, gown, and move directly into the restricted corridor of the surgical suite,” and the latter “shall be arranged to provide a one-way traffic pattern from the restricted surgical corridor to the postoperative recovery suite, and then to the extended observation rooms or discharge.” Surgical centers must meet numerous other spatial requirements, including specific corridor widths. Surgical centers must also have an advanced heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, and must satisfy particular piping system and plumbing requirements. Dozens of other sections list additional requirements that apply to surgical centers.

    There is considerable evidence in the record supporting the District Court’s findings indicating that the statutory provision requiring all abortion facilities to meet all surgical-center standards does not benefit patients and is not necessary …

    The record makes clear that the surgical-center requirement provides no benefit when complications arise in the context of an abortion produced through medication. That is because, in such a case, complications would almost always arise only after the patient has left the facility. The record also contains evidence indicating that abortions taking place in an abortion facility are safe—indeed, safer than numerous procedures that take place outside hospitals and to which Texas does not apply its surgical-center requirements … These facts indicate that the surgical-center provision imposes “a requirement that simply is not based on differences” between abortion and other surgical procedures “that are reasonably related to” preserving women’s health, the asserted “purpos[e] of the Act in which it is found.” Doe (quoting Morey v. Doud, (1957); internal quotation marks omitted).

    … Moreover, many surgical-center requirements are inappropriate as applied to surgical abortions … [A]bortions typically involve either the administration of medicines or procedures performed through the natural opening of the birth canal, which is itself not sterile.

    The upshot is that this record evidence, along with the absence of any evidence to the contrary, provides ample support for the District Court’s conclusion that “[m]any of the building standards mandated by the act and its implementing rules have such a tangential relationship to patient safety in the context of abortion as to be nearly arbitrary.” That conclusion, along with the supporting evidence, provides sufficient support for the more general conclusion that the surgical-center requirement “will not [provide] better care or … more frequent positive outcomes.” Ibid. The record evidence thus supports the ultimate legal conclusion that the surgical-center requirement is not necessary.

    At the same time, the record provides adequate evidentiary support for the District Court’s conclusion that the surgical-center requirement places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion. The parties stipulated that the requirement would further reduce the number of abortion facilities available to seven or eight facilities, located in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas/Fort Worth. In the District Court’s view, the proposition that these “seven or eight providers could meet the demand of the entire State stretches credulity.” We take this statement as a finding that these few facilities could not “meet” that “demand.”

    … [C]ommon sense suggests that, more often than not, a physical facility that satisfies a certain physical demand will not be able to meet five times that demand without expanding or otherwise incurring significant costs. Suppose that we know only that a certain grocery store 618 serves 200 customers per week, that a certain apartment building provides apartments for 200 families, that a certain train station welcomes 200 trains per day. While it is conceivable that the store, the apartment building, or the train station could just as easily provide for 1,000 customers, families, or trains at no significant additional cost, crowding, or delay, most of us would find this possibility highly improbable. The dissent takes issue with this general, intuitive point by arguing that many places operate below capacity and that in any event, facilities could simply hire additional providers. We disagree that, according to common sense, medical facilities, well known for their wait times, operate below capacity as a general matter. And the fact that so many facilities were forced to close by the admitting-privileges requirement means that hiring more physicians would not be quite as simple as the dissent suggests. Courts are free to base their findings on commonsense inferences drawn from the evidence …

    More fundamentally, in the face of no threat to women’s health, Texas seeks to force women to travel long distances to get abortions in crammed-to-capacity superfacilities. Patients seeking these services are less likely to get the kind of individualized attention, serious conversation, and emotional support that doctors at less taxed facilities may have offered. Healthcare facilities and medical professionals are not fungible commodities. Surgical centers attempting to accommodate sudden, vastly increased demand, may find that quality of care declines. Another commonsense inference that the District Court made is that these effects would be harmful to, not supportive of, women’s health.

    We consider three additional arguments that Texas makes and deem none persuasive.

    For these reasons the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

    It is so ordered.

    Justice Ginsburg, concurring

    * * * When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety. See Brief for Ten Pennsylvania Abortion Care Providers as Amici Curiae. So long as this Court adheres to Roe v. Wade (1973), and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey (1992), Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H. B. 2 that “do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,” cannot survive judicial inspection.

    Justice Thomas, dissenting [omitted], Justice Alito, with whom the Chief Justice and Justice Thomas join, dissenting.

    The constitutionality of laws regulating abortion is one of the most controversial issues in American law, but this case does not require us to delve into that contentious dispute. Instead, the dispositive issue here concerns a workaday question that can arise in any case no matter the subject, namely, whether the present case is barred by res judicata. As a court of law, we have an obligation to apply such rules in a neutral fashion in all cases, regardless of the subject of the suit. If anything, when a case involves a controversial issue, we should be especially careful to be scrupulously neutral in applying such rules. The Court has not done so here * * * and will undermine public confidence in the Court as a fair and neutral arbiter. * * *

    Even if res judicata did not bar either facial claim, a sweeping, statewide injunction against the enforcement of the admitting privileges and ASC requirements would still be unjustified. Petitioners in this case are abortion clinics and physicians who perform abortions. If they were simply asserting a constitutional right to conduct a business or to practice a profession without unnecessary state regulation, they would have little chance of success …

    Under our abortion cases, however, they are permitted to rely on the right of the abortion patients they serve. Thus, what matters for present purposes is not the effect of the H.B. 2 provisions on petitioners but the effect on their patients. Under our cases, petitioners must show that the admitting privileges and ASC requirements impose an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. Gonzales v. Carhart (2007). And in order to obtain the sweeping relief they seek—facial invalidation of those provisions—they must show, at a minimum, that these provisions have an unconstitutional impact on at least a “large fraction” of Texas women of reproductive age. Such a situation could result if the clinics able to comply with the new requirements either lacked the requisite overall capacity or were located too far away to serve a “large fraction” of the women in question. Petitioners did not make that showing. Instead of offering direct evidence, they relied on two crude inferences. First, they pointed to the number of abortion clinics that closed after the enactment of H.B. 2, and asked that it be inferred that all these closures resulted from the two challenged provisions. They made little effort to show why particular clinics closed. Second, they pointed to the number of abortions performed annually at ASCs before H.B. 2 took effect and, because this figure is well below the total number of abortions performed each year in the State, they asked that it be inferred that ASC-compliant clinics could not meet the demands of women in the State. Petitioners failed to provide any evidence of the actual capacity of the facilities that would be available to perform abortions in compliance with the new law—even though they provided this type of evidence in their first case to the District Court at trial and then to this Court in their application for interim injunctive relief. * * *

    I therefore respectfully dissent.


    June Medical Services v. Russo (2020)

    591 U.S. ___ (2020)

    Vote: 5-4
    Decision: Reversed
    Plurality: Breyer, joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan
    Concurrence: Roberts
    Dissent: Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Thomas

    JUSTICE BREYER announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which JUSTICE GINSBURG, JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR, and JUSTICE KAGAN join.

    In this case, we consider the constitutionality of a Louisiana statute, Act 620, that is almost word-for-word identical to Texas’ admitting-privileges law. See La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §40:1061.10(A)(2)(a) (West 2020). As in Whole Woman’s Health, the District Court found that the statute offers no significant health benefit. It found that conditions on admitting privileges common to hospitals throughout the State have made and will continue to make it impossible for abortion providers to obtain conforming privileges for reasons that have nothing to do with the State’s asserted interests in promoting women’s health and safety. And it found that this inability places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion. As in Whole Woman’s Health, the substantial obstacle the Act imposes, and the absence of any health-related benefit, led the District Court to conclude that the law imposes an undue burden and is therefore unconstitutional …

    The statute defines “active admitting privileges” to mean that the doctor must be “a member in good standing” of the hospital’s “medical staff … with the ability to admit a patient and to provide diagnostic and surgical services to such patient.” Ibid.; La. Admin. Code, tit. 48, pt. I, §4401. Failure to comply may lead to fines of up to $4,000 per violation, license revocation, and civil liability …

    The State’s unmistakable concession of standing as part of its effort to obtain a quick decision from the District Court on the merits of the plaintiffs’ undue-burden claims bars our consideration of it here. See Wood v. Milyard, (2012); cf. post, at 24–25 (Alito, J., dissenting) (addressing the Court’s approach to claims forfeited, rather than waived); post, at 7–8 (Gorsuch, J., dissenting) (addressing waiver of structural rather than prudential objections) … In any event, the rule the State invokes is hardly absolute. We have long permitted abortion providers to invoke the rights of their actual or potential patients in challenges to abortion-related regulations … And we have generally permitted plaintiffs to assert third-party rights in cases where the “ ‘enforcement of the challenged restriction against the litigant would result indirectly in the violation of third parties’ rights.’ ” Kowalski, (quoting Warth) …

    Turning to the merits, we apply the constitutional standards set forth in our earlier abortion-related cases, and in particular in Casey and Whole Woman’s Health. … In Whole Woman’s Health, we quoted Casey in explaining that “‘a statute which, while furthering [a] valid state interest has the effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman’s choice cannot be considered a permissible means of serving its legitimate ends … ’” We added that “‘[u]nnecessary health regulations’” impose an unconstitutional “ ‘undue burden’ ” if they have “‘the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion,’” (quoting Casey, emphasis added).

    The evidence on which the District Court relied in this case is even stronger and more detailed.

    The District Court found that enforcing the admitting-privileges requirement would “result in a drastic reduction in the number and geographic distribution of abortion providers.” Id., at 87. In light of demographic, economic, and other evidence, the court concluded that this reduction would make it impossible for “many women seeking a safe, legal abortion in Louisiana … to obtain one” and that it would impose “substantial obstacles” on those who could. Id., at 88.

    Just as in Whole Woman’s Health, the experiences of the individual doctors in this case support the District Court’s factual finding that Louisiana’s admitting-privileges requirement, like that in Texas’ law, serves no “‘relevant credentialing function.’” (quoting Whole Woman’s Health).

    … would leave Louisiana with just one clinic with one provider to serve the 10,000 women annually who seek abortions in the State.

    … As in Whole Woman’s Health, the reduction in abortion providers caused by Act 620 would inevitably mean “longer waiting times, and increased crowding.”

    … Even if they obtain an appointment at a clinic, women who might previously have gone to a clinic in Baton Rouge or Shreveport would face increased driving distances. New Orleans is nearly a five hour drive from Shreveport; it is over an hour from Baton Rouge; and Baton Rouge is more than four hours from Shreveport. The impact of those increases would be magnified by Louisiana’s requirement that every woman undergo an ultrasound and receive mandatory counseling at least 24 hours before an abortion. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §40:1061.10(D). A Shreveport resident seeking an abortion who might previously have obtained care at one of that city’s local clinics would either have to spend nearly 20 hours driving back and forth to Doe 5’s clinic twice, or else find overnight lodging in New Orleans.

    We turn finally to the law’s asserted benefits. The District Court found that there was “‘no significant health-related problem that the new law helped to cure.’” (quoting Whole Woman’s Health). It found that the admitting-privileges requirement “[d]oes [n]ot [p]rotect [w]omen’s [h]ealth,” provides “no significant health benefits,” and makes no improvement to women’s health “compared to prior law.” Our examination of the record convinces us that these findings are not “clearly erroneous.”

    Taken together, we think that these findings and the evidence that underlies them are sufficient to support the District Court’s conclusion that Act 620 would place substantial obstacles in the path of women seeking an abortion in Louisiana …

    This case is similar to, nearly identical with, Whole Woman’s Health. And the law must consequently reach a similar conclusion. Act 620 is unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals’ judgment is erroneous.

    It is Reversed.

    CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS, concurring in the judgment.

    The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike. The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.

    In this context, courts applying a balancing test would be asked in essence to weigh the State’s interests in “protecting the potentiality of human life” and the health of the woman, on the one hand, against the woman’s liberty interest in defining her “own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” on the other …

    Nothing about Casey suggested that a weighing of costs and benefits of an abortion regulation was a job for the courts. On the contrary, we have explained that the “traditional rule” that “state and federal legislatures [have] wide discretion to pass legislation in areas where there is medical and scientific uncertainty” is “consistent with Casey …”

    The upshot of Casey is clear: The several restrictions that did not impose a substantial obstacle were constitutional, while the restriction that did impose a substantial obstacle was unconstitutional. To be sure, the Court at times discussed the benefits of the regulations, including when it distinguished spousal notification from parental consent …

    So long as that showing is made, the only question for a court is whether a law has the “effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus …”

    Mazurek v. Armstrong places this understanding of Casey’s undue burden standard beyond doubt. Mazurek involved a challenge to a Montana law restricting the performance of abortions to licensed physicians. It was “uncontested that there was insufficient evidence of a ‘substantial obstacle’ to abortion.” Therefore, once the Court found that the Montana Legislature had not acted with an “unlawful motive,” the Court’s work was complete. Ibid. In fact, the Court found the challengers’ argument—that the law was invalid because “all health evidence contradicts the [State’s] claim that there is any health basis for the law”—to be “squarely foreclosed by Casey itself …”

    The question is not whether we would reach the same findings from the same record …

    We accordingly will not disturb the factual conclusions of the trial court unless we are “left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” United States v. United States Gypsum Co., (1948). In my view, the District Court’s work reveals no such clear error, for the reasons the plurality explains. Ante, at 19–35. The District Court findings therefore bind us in this case. * * *

    Stare decisis instructs us to treat like cases alike. The result in this case is controlled by our decision four years ago invalidating a nearly identical Texas law. The Louisiana law burdens women seeking previability abortions to the same extent as the Texas law, according to factual findings that are not clearly erroneous.

    For that reason, I concur in the judgment of the Court that the Louisiana law is unconstitutional.


    Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022)

    597 U.S. ___ (2022)

    Vote: 6-3
    Opinion: Alito
    Decision: Reversed
    Majority: Alito, joined by Gorsuch, Roberts, Barrett, Thomas, Kavanaugh
    Concurrence: Thomas
    Concurrence: Kavanaugh
    Concurrence: Roberts (in judgment)
    Dissent: Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan (jointly authored)

    JUSTICE ALITO delivered the opinion of the Court.

    Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views. Some believe fervently that a human person comes into being at conception and that abortion ends an innocent life. Others feel just as strongly that any regulation of abortion invades a woman’s right to control her own body and prevents women from achieving full equality. Still others in a third group think that abortion should be allowed under some but not all circumstances, and those within this group hold a variety of views about the particular restrictions that should be imposed …

    At the time of Roe, 30 States still prohibited abortion at all stages. In the years prior to that decision, about a third of the States had liberalized their laws, but Roe abruptly ended that political process. It imposed the same highly restrictive regime on the entire Nation, and it effectively struck down the abortion laws of every single State. As Justice Byron White aptly put it in his dissent, the decision represented the “exercise of raw judicial power,” and it sparked a national controversy that has embittered our political culture for a half century …

    Paradoxically, the judgment in Casey did a fair amount of overruling. Several important abortion decisions were overruled in toto, and Roe itself was overruled in part. Casey threw out Roe’s trimester scheme and substituted a new rule of uncertain origin under which States were forbidden to adopt any regulation that imposed an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to have an abortion. The decision provided no clear guidance about the difference between a “due” and an “undue” burden. But the three Justices who authored the controlling opinion “call[ed] the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division” by treating the Court’s decision as the final settlement of the question of the constitutional right to abortion …

    As has become increasingly apparent in the intervening years, Casey did not achieve that goal. Americans continue to hold passionate and widely divergent views on abortion, and state legislatures have acted accordingly. Some have recently enacted laws allowing abortion, with few restrictions, at all stages of pregnancy. Others have tightly restricted abortion beginning well before viability. And in this case, 26 States have expressly asked this Court to overrule Roe and Casey and allow the States to regulate or prohibit pre-viability abortions …

    Before us now is one such state law. The State of Mississippi asks us to uphold the constitutionality of a law that generally prohibits an abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy—several weeks before the point at which a fetus is now regarded as “viable” outside the womb. In defending this law, the State’s primary argument is that we should reconsider and overrule Roe and Casey and once again allow each State to regulate abortion as its citizens wish. On the other side, respondents and the Solicitor General ask us to reaffirm Roe and Casey, and they contend that the Mississippi law cannot stand if we do so. Allowing Mississippi to prohibit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, they argue, “would be no different than overruling Casey and Roe entirely.” Brief for Respondents 43. They contend that “no half-measures” are available and that we must either reaffirm or overrule Roe and Casey

    We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” and “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” Washington v. Glucksberg, (1997) …

    The right to abortion does not fall within this category. Until the latter part of the 20th century, such a right was entirely unknown in American law. Indeed, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, three quarters of the States made abortion a crime at all stages of pregnancy. The abortion right is also critically different from any other right that this Court has held to fall within the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of “liberty.” Roe’s defenders characterize the abortion right as similar to the rights recognized in past decisions involving matters such as intimate sexual relations, contraception, and marriage, but abortion is fundamentally different, as both Roe and Casey acknowledged, because it destroys what those decisions called “fetal life” and what the law now before us describes as an “unborn human being” …

    Stare decisis, the doctrine on which Casey’s controlling opinion was based, does not compel unending adherence to Roe’s abuse of judicial authority. Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division …

    It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives. “The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations, upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.” Casey, (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part). That is what the Constitution and the rule of law demand …

    In interpreting what is meant by the Fourteenth Amendment’s reference to “liberty,” we must guard against the natural human tendency to confuse what that Amendment protects with our own ardent views about the liberty that Americans should enjoy. That is why the Court has long been “reluctant” to recognize rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution. Collins v. Harker Heights, (1992).”Substantive due process has at times been a treacherous field for this Court,” Moore v. East Cleveland, (1977) (plurality opinion), and it has sometimes led the Court to usurp authority that the Constitution entrusts to the people’s elected representatives. As the Court cautioned in Glucksberg, “[w]e must … exercise the utmost care whenever we are asked to break new ground in this field, lest the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause be subtly transformed into the policy preferences of the Members of this Court.” …

    Until the latter part of the 20th century, there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain an abortion. No state constitutional provision had recognized such a right. Until a few years before Roe was handed down, no federal or state court had recognized such a right. Nor had any scholarly treatise of which we are aware. And although law review articles are not reticent about advocating new rights, the earliest article proposing a constitutional right to abortion that has come to our attention was published only a few years before Roe

    Not only was there no support for such a constitutional right until shortly before Roe, but abortion had long been a crime in every single State. At common law, abortion was criminal in at least some stages of pregnancy and was regarded as unlawful and could have very serious consequences at all stages. American law followed the common law until a wave of statutory restrictions in the 1800s expanded criminal liability for abortions. By the time of the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, three-quarters of the States had made abortion a crime at any stage of pregnancy, and the remaining States would soon follow …

    Roe either ignored or misstated this history, and Casey declined to reconsider Roe’s faulty historical analysis. It is therefore important to set the record straight …

    We begin with the common law, under which abortion was a crime at least after “quickening”—i.e., the first felt movement of the fetus in the womb, which usually occurs between the 16th and 18th week of pregnancy …

    English cases dating all the way back to the 13th century corroborate the treatises’ statements that abortion was a crime …

    That the common law did not condone even prequickening abortions is confirmed by what one might call a proto-felony-murder rule. Hale and Blackstone explained a way in which a pre-quickening abortion could rise to the level of a homicide. Hale wrote that if a physician gave a woman “with child” a “potion” to cause an abortion, and the woman died, it was “murder” because the potion was given “unlawfully to destroy her child within her.” 1 Hale 429– 430 (emphasis added) …

    The original ground for drawing a distinction between pre- and post-quickening abortions is not entirely clear, but some have attributed the rule to the difficulty of proving that a pre-quickening fetus was alive. At that time, there were no scientific methods for detecting pregnancy in its early stages, and thus, as one court put it in 1872: “[U]ntil the period of quickening there is no evidence of life; and whatever may be said of the fetus, the law has fixed upon this period of gestation as the time when the child is endowed with life” because “fetal movements are the first clearly marked and well defined evidences of life.” Evans v. People (emphasis added); Cooper (“In contemplation of law life commences at the moment of quickening, at that moment when the embryo gives the first physical proof of life, no matter when it first received it” (emphasis added)) …

    At any rate, the original ground for the quickening rule is of little importance for present purposes because the rule was abandoned in the 19th century. During that period, treatise writers and commentators criticized the quickening distinction as “neither in accordance with the result of medical experience, nor with the principles of the common law.” F. Wharton, Criminal Law §1220, p. 606 (rev. 4th ed. 1857) (footnotes omitted); see also J. Beck, Researches in Medicine and Medical Jurisprudence 26–28 (2d ed. 1835) (describing the quickening distinction as “absurd” and “injurious”) …

    In this country during the 19th century, the vast majority of the States enacted statutes criminalizing abortion at all stages of pregnancy. See Appendix A, infra (listing state statutory provisions in chronological order). By 1868, the year when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, threequarters of the States, 28 out of 37, had enacted statutes making abortion a crime even if it was performed before quickening. See ibid. Of the nine States that had not yet criminalized abortion at all stages, all but one did so by 1910. See ibid

    This overwhelming consensus endured until the day Roe was decided. At that time, also by the Roe Court’s own count, a substantial majority—30 States—still prohibited abortion at all stages except to save the life of the mother. See id., at 118, and n. 2 (listing States). And though Roe discerned a “trend toward liberalization” in about “one third of the States,” those States still criminalized some abortions and regulated them more stringently than Roe would allow. Id., at 140, and n. 37; Tribe 2. In short, the “Court’s opinion in Roe itself convincingly refutes the notion that the abortion liberty is deeply rooted in the history or tradition of our people.” …

    We end this opinion where we began. Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.

    The judgment of the Fifth Circuit is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

    It is so ordered.

    JUSTICE THOMAS, concurring.

    I write separately to emphasize a second, more fundamental reason why there is no abortion guarantee lurking in the Due Process Clause. Considerable historical evidence indicates that “due process of law” merely required executive and judicial actors to comply with legislative enactments and the common law when depriving a person of life, liberty, or property … Other sources, by contrast, suggest that “due process of law” prohibited legislatures “from authorizing the deprivation of a person’s life, liberty, or property without providing him the customary procedures to which freemen were entitled by the old law of England.” United States v. Vaello Madero, (2022) (THOMAS, J., concurring). Either way, the Due Process Clause at most guarantees process. It does not, as the Court’s substantive due process cases suppose, “forbi[d] the government to infringe certain ‘fundamental’ liberty interests at all, no matter what process is provided.” Reno v. Flores, (1993) …

    The Court today declines to disturb substantive due process jurisprudence generally or the doctrine’s application in other, specific contexts. Cases like Griswold v. Connecticut, (1965) (right of married persons to obtain contraceptives)*; Lawrence v. Texas, (2003) (right to engage in private, consensual sexual acts); and Obergefell v. Hodges, (2015) (right to same-sex marriage), are not at issue. The Court’s abortion cases are unique, see ante, at 31–32, 66, 71–72, and no party has asked us to decide “whether our entire Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence must be preserved or revised,” McDonald, at 813 (opinion of THOMAS, J.). Thus, I agree that “[n]othing in [the Court’s] opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.” Ante, at 66.

    For that reason, in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is “demonstrably erroneous,” Ramos v. Louisiana, (2020) (THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment) (slip op., at 7), we have a duty to “correct the error” established in those precedents, Gamble v. United States, (2019) (THOMAS, J., concurring) (slip op., at 9). After overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process cases have generated. For example, we could consider whether any of the rights announced in this Court’s substantive due process cases are “privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Amdt. 14, §1 … To answer that question, we would need to decide important antecedent questions, including whether the Privileges or Immunities Clause protects any rights that are not enumerated in the Constitution and, if so, how to identify those rights … That said, even if the Clause does protect unenumerated rights, the Court conclusively demonstrates that abortion is not one of them under any plausible interpretive approach …

    Substantive due process conflicts with that textual command and has harmed our country in many ways. Accordingly, we should eliminate it from our jurisprudence at the earliest opportunity …

    JUSTICE BREYER, JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR, and JUSTICE KAGAN, dissenting.

    For half a century, Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey (1992) have protected the liberty and equality of women. Roe held, and Casey reaffirmed, that the Constitution safeguards a woman’s right to decide for herself whether to bear a child. Roe held, and Casey reaffirmed, that in the first stages of pregnancy, the government could not make that choice for women. The government could not control a woman’s body or the course of a woman’s life: It could not determine what the woman’s future would be. See Casey, at 853; Gonzales v. Carhart, 171–172 (2007) (Ginsburg, J., dissenting). Respecting a woman as an autonomous being, and granting her full equality, meant giving her substantial choice over this most personal and most consequential of all life decisions …

    Today, the Court discards that balance. It says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs. An abortion restriction, the majority holds, is permissible whenever rational, the lowest level of scrutiny known to the law. And because, as the Court has often stated, protecting fetal life is rational, States will feel free to enact all manner of restrictions. The Mississippi law at issue here bars abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. Under the majority’s ruling, though, another State’s law could do so after ten weeks, or five or three or one—or, again, from the moment of fertilization. States have already passed such laws, in anticipation of today’s ruling. More will follow. Some States have enacted laws extending to all forms of abortion procedure, including taking medication in one’s own home. They have passed laws without any exceptions for when the woman is the victim of rape or incest. Under those laws, a woman will have to bear her rapist’s child or a young girl her father’s—no matter if doing so will destroy her life. So too, after today’s ruling, some States may compel women to carry to term a fetus with severe physical anomalies—for example, one afflicted with Tay-Sachs disease, sure to die within a few years of birth. States may even argue that a prohibition on abortion need make no provision for protecting a woman from risk of death or physical harm. Across a vast array of circumstances, a State will be able to impose its moral choice on a woman and coerce her to give birth to a child …

    The majority tries to hide the geographically expansive effects of its holding. Today’s decision, the majority says, permits “each State” to address abortion as it pleases. Ante, at 79. That is cold comfort, of course, for the poor woman who cannot get the money to fly to a distant State for a procedure. Above all others, women lacking financial resources will suffer from today’s decision. In any event, interstate restrictions will also soon be in the offing. After this decision, some States may block women from traveling out of State to obtain abortions, or even from receiving abortion medications from out of State. Some may criminalize efforts, including the provision of information or funding, to help women gain access to other States’ abortion services. Most threatening of all, no language in today’s decision stops the Federal Government from prohibiting abortions nationwide, once again from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape or incest. If that happens, “the views of [an individual State’s] citizens” will not matter. Ante, at 1. The challenge for a woman will be to finance a trip not to “New York [or] California” but to Toronto. Ante, at 4 (KAVANAUGH, J., concurring) …

    Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens. Yesterday, the Constitution guaranteed that a woman confronted with an unplanned pregnancy could (within reasonable limits) make her own decision about whether to bear a child, with all the life-transforming consequences that act involves. And in thus safeguarding each woman’s reproductive freedom, the Constitution also protected “[t]he ability of women to participate equally in [this Nation’s] economic and social life.” Casey, at 856. But no longer. As of today, this Court holds, a State can always force a woman to give birth, prohibiting even the earliest abortions. A State can thus transform what, when freely undertaken, is a wonder into what, when forced, may be a nightmare. Some women, especially women of means, will find ways around the State’s assertion of power. Others—those without money or childcare or the ability to take time off from work—will not be so fortunate. Maybe they will try an unsafe method of abortion, and come to physical harm, or even die. Maybe they will undergo pregnancy and have a child, but at significant personal or familial cost. At the least, they will incur the cost of losing control of their lives. The Constitution will, today’s majority holds, provide no shield, despite its guarantees of liberty and equality for all …

    And no one should be confident that this majority is done with its work. The right Roe and Casey recognized does not stand alone. To the contrary, the Court has linked it for decades to other settled freedoms involving bodily integrity, familial relationships, and procreation. Most obviously, the right to terminate a pregnancy arose straight out of the right to purchase and use contraception. See Griswold v. Connecticut, (1965); Eisenstadt v. Baird, (1972). In turn, those rights led, more recently, to rights of same-sex intimacy and marriage. See Lawrence v. Texas, (2003); Obergefell v. Hodges, (2015). They are all part of the same constitutional fabric, protecting autonomous decision making over the most personal of life decisions. The majority (or to be more accurate, most of it) is eager to tell us today that nothing it does “cast[s] doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.” Ante, at 66; cf. ante, at 3 (THOMAS, J., concurring) (advocating the overruling of Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell). But how could that be? The lone rationale for what the majority does today is that the right to elect an abortion is not “deeply rooted in history”: Not until Roe, the majority argues, did people think abortion fell within the Constitution’s guarantee of liberty. Ante, at 32. The same could be said, though, of most of the rights the majority claims it is not tampering with. The majority could write just as long an opinion showing, for example, that until the mid-20th century, “there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain [contraceptives].” Ante, at 15. So one of two things must be true. Either the majority does not really believe in its own reasoning. Or if it does, all rights that have no history stretching back to the mid19th century are insecure. Either the mass of the majority’s opinion is hypocrisy, or additional constitutional rights are under threat. It is one or the other …

    In sum, none of the cases the majority cites is analogous to today’s decision to overrule 50- and 30-year-old watershed constitutional precedents that remain unweakened by any changes of law or fact.



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