Webster v. Reproductive Health Services

492 U.S. 490
Brief Filed: 3/89
Court: Supreme Court of the United States
Year of Decision: 1989

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 886KB)


Whether a state statute that comprehensively regulated abortion was unconstitutional

Index Topic



The State of Missouri enacted a statute that limited a woman's right to seek an abortion in the following ways: (1) life was defined as beginning at conception; (2) abortions at 16 weeks or later were required to be performed in hospitals; (3) the attending physician was required to personally convey information necessary for informed consent and to inform the woman whether or not she was pregnant; (4) viability tests were required to ascertain fetal gestational age, weight and lung capacity where the physician had reason to believe the pregnancy was in its 20th or later week; and (5) the use of public funds, activities, employees and facilities for the purposes of performing or assisting in abortions and encouraging or counseling a woman to have an abortion, if unnecessary to save her life, were prohibited. The federal district court found the restrictions unconstitutional. The State appealed except as to the informed consent provision. The Eighth Circuit affirmed all of the district court's findings except concerning the prohibition against use of public funds, employees and facilities. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the constitutionality of the statute's definition of life, the requirement of mandatory viability tests on the fetus, and the prohibition on use of public funds, employees and facilities.

APA's Position

APA submitted an amicus brief arguing that: (1) the available scientific literature does not sustain the argument that Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) should be overruled because of the alleged adverse psychological effects of abortion; (2) the Court in 1981 relied on tentative, fragmentary and irrelevant findings when it conceded abortion produces negative psychological effects on women; (3) empirical research on the psychological effects of abortion generally lacks the methodological rigor necessary to justify overruling Roe; (4) the existing evidence does not support the view that there are substantial adverse emotional and psychological consequences of the decision to have an abortion; (5) a ban on the use of public funds to encourage or counsel a woman to have an abortion is antagonistic to the State's interest in promoting informed consent and protecting the health and welfare of its citizens and unduly interferes with professional discretion; (6) the statute undermines the health of the citizens and may be antagonistic to its goal of preventing future unwanted pregnancies; and (7) the statute interferes with professional judgment and requires psychologists to violate basic ethical precepts.


The Supreme Court upheld the restrictive provisions of the Missouri statute.