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When courts legislate
The United States Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand, through all nine months of pregnancy, in 1973 with the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions.
Since that time, many other abortion-related cases have been decided in both state and federal courts that have modified our nation’s abortion policies. Below is a listing of some of the most sweeping cases affecting legalized abortion.
In a 7-2 decision in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court found that "the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons" and that a woman’s right to privacy encompasses the abortion decision.
Read more about Roe v. Wade.
Doe v. Bolton was meant to be read in conjunction with its more famous counterpart, Roe v. Wade. In Doe, the Court defined "health" to include not just physical health, but also psychological, mental and emotional health. The Court cited age, familial circumstances and anything relevant to the woman’s general feeling of well-being as reasons that would justify a late-term abortion, and thus override what Roe decided was a legitimate state interest in protecting the unborn after viability.
Read more about Doe v. Bolton.
The Roe decision seems to allow states to pass protections for women and unborn babies in the second and third trimesters. However, Roe declares that states are not allowed to pass protective laws when an abortion is required to preserve the life or the "health" of the mother. The Doe decision, meant to be read with Roe, defined the "health" exception so broadly as to encompass virtually any reason. Thus, Roe and Doe together permit abortion at any time and for any reason.
Although Planned Parenthood v. Casey reaffirmed the right to abortion found in Roe and Doe, this decision made two major modifications. First, the Court shifted the justification for legalized abortion from the “right to privacy” found in Roe to the right to “liberty” found in the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Second, Casey created a new standard from which regulations would be evaluated. It rejected the more rigid trimester framework for a new standard which considered whether the statute created an “undue burden” for women seeking abortion. Using this “undue burden” standard, the Court upheld state laws almost identical to statutes it had previously struck down using the “compelling state interest” test.
In this landmark case, the Court upheld for the first time a ban on a specific abortion procedure. Although the Supreme Court had previously struck down a similar ban on partial-birth abortion, when the justices examined the recently-passed federal partial-birth abortion ban in Gonzales, they came to a different decision.
Doe v. Gomez is a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision that established an absolute right to abortion under the Minnesota Constitution. The Court also ruled that taxpayers must pay for abortions performed on women who cannot afford them. Consequently, our state’s abortion policy is one of the most extreme in the nation! If Roe were to be reversed, Minnesota would still have abortion on demand because of the Gomez decision.
Read more about Doe v. Gomez.
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