Planned Parenthood of SE Pennsylvania v. Casey

505 U.S. 833
Brief Filed: 4/92
Court: Supreme Court of the United States
Year of Decision: 1992

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 511KB)

Issue

Whether (1) the challenged provisions of Pennsylvania's abortion statute are constitutional, and (2) the standard of review established under Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) for regulations restricting abortion remained the law of the land

Index Topic

Abortion

Facts

A number of abortion clinics filed suit in federal district court challenging the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act. Specifically, the Act required: (1) that clinics and physicians provide information on the psychological and physical risks of abortion as a part of the informed consent process, and a 24-hour waiting period following receipt of that information; (2) spousal notification prior to an abortion; (3) one parent's consent or a court order and dissemination of informed consent information before a minor could obtain an abortion; (4) preparation of certain public reports by the abortion service provider made available to the state and public; and (5) a narrower definition of medical emergency exempting physicians from compliance with the act. The district court applied strict scrutiny and held that the above provisions were unconstitutional. The Third Circuit reversed the district court in part, upholding all of the challenged regulations except for the spousal notification requirement. The Third Circuit also held that strict scrutiny was no longer required and that abortion laws should be reviewed under the undue burden standard. Both parties sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

APA's Position

APA's amicus brief focused primarily on the spousal notification and informed consent provisions and argued: (1) that Pennsylvania's compelled spousal notification severely burdened women's right to choose because (a) many women with compelling reasons for non-disclosure are not exempted from the Act's spousal notification requirements, (b) many women who would otherwise be exempted from compelled spousal notification were burdened because of being procedurally disqualified, (c) mandatory spousal notification places extraordinary burdens on wives who have decided not to notify their husbands of the planned abortion, and (d) there is no empirical support for the proposition that compelled spousal notification promotes the marital relationship; (2) the informed consent provisions of the Pennsylvania Act were unconstitutional because (a) they required the dissemination of misleading and inaccurate information that could be harmful to women in that they interfered with effective counseling and were designed not to inform but to bias women against having abortions, and (b) the 24-hour mandatory delay severely burdened a woman's right to choose.

Results

The U.S. Supreme Court's plurality opinion stated that the principles of Roe v. Wade were reaffirmed. However, the trimester framework and strict scrutiny standard of review were rejected in favor of the undue burden standard articulated in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. 490 (1989). Under that standard, a provision that restricts abortion will be deemed unconstitutional if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion prior to the time of viability. The Court upheld the informed consent provisions of the law, but found the spousal notification requirement to be an undue burden and therefore unconstitutional.