The 1992 United States Supreme Court decision in Planned Kinship of Southeast Pennsylvania vs. Casey reaffirmed a woman’s right to abortion as granted in the 1973 law Roe vs. Wade Case. However, the contentious 5-4 decision amended deer and upheld a number of Pennsylvania abortion requirements cited in the case, while expanding state power to regulate and restrict abortions.
After Roe vs. Wade
On January 22, 1973, Roe vs. Wade decision, the Supreme Court, in a 7-2 vote, ruled that abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy was a constitutional right protected by the 14th Amendment.
The ruling included a quarterly framework where it was up to a woman and her doctor to decide whether to have a first-trimester abortion, a state could restrict, but not ban, second-trimester abortions, and third-trimester abortions when a fetus is viable to survive outside the womb, a state could prohibit abortion except when necessary for the woman’s health or to save her life.
Following the judgment, a number of disputes deer and restrictions on the right to abortion ensued. In the 1976 Planned Parenthood v. Danforth case, the Supreme Court ruled parts of a Missouri abortion law unconstitutional, including the written consent required of a woman’s husband. In the 1980’s Harris v. McRae, the court held that under Title XIX, Medicaid participating states were not required to fund medically necessary abortions. In 1989, the court upheld restrictive abortion provisions in a Missouri law in Webster v. Reproductive health services.
Pennsylvania Abortion Control Law
Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act was amended in 1988 and 1989, adding five new provisions requiring informed consent, a 24-hour waiting period with information provided on alternatives to abortion, parental consent for minors in most cases, notification to the woman’s husband that she was considering having an abortion and the report must be completed by the abortion providers.
Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania sued the State of Pennsylvania, claiming the provisions were unconstitutional and in violation of the Roe vs. Wade decision. The requirements were struck down by a federal district court, but all but the spousal notification provision were upheld by a U.S. Court of Appeals, which included future Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.
The Supreme Court decision
With a more conservative court in place since Roe’s verdict 19 years earlier, it came as a surprise to many when deerThe constitutional right to abortion was reaffirmed by a 5-4 vote on June 29, 1992.
Scroll to continue
The ruling cited “stare decisis,” or adherence to precedent, in confirming deer. However, in a plurality decision, the court upheld all of Pennsylvania’s abortion requirements except for the provision that a woman’s husband must be notified of the procedure. It also modified the quarterly framework defined in deerallowing states to regulate abortions before fetal viability as long as a “substantial obstacle” or “undue burden” is not added.
The majority decision was written by Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter, who were joined by Justices Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens. Four justices, Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Byron White, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented. On a 7-2 vote, all four Pennsylvania restrictions were upheld, with Blackmun and Stevens dissenting.
While Casey reaffirmed a woman’s right to an abortion, it also gave states more leeway to pass laws restricting abortion.
“A woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy before viability is the most central tenet of Roe v. Wade,” the majority authors wrote. “It is a rule of law and a component of freedom that we cannot give up.”
“A History of Key Abortion Rulings of the US Supreme Court,” January 16, 2013, Pew Research Center.
“High Court, 5-4, Affirms Right to Abortion But Allows Most of Pennsylvania’s Limits”, by Linda Greenhouse, June 30, 1992, The New York Times.
“Roe and Casey: The two abortion precedents the Supreme Court can overturn”, by Joan Biskupic, December 1, 2021, CNN.
“How the Supreme Court went from cementing abortion rights in Roe v. Wade to writing them out,” by Kevin Breuninger, May 6, 2022, CNBC.
“Roe established the right to abortion. 20 years later, Casey paved the way for restrictions,” by Dipa Shivaram, May 6, 2022, NPR.