Abortion and the U S Supreme Court

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Overthe past four decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has superseded as themain driving force behind crafting abortion policies. In the 17thcentury, abortion was legal before 20 weeks (Berlatsky, 2011).However, in the mid-1800`s, a movement began to criminalize abortionand by 1900`s, every state had forbidden abortions (Mohr, 1978).Nevertheless, the procurement of abortions continued and by 1930`s,an average of 900,000 abortions had been procured by physicians inthe United States (Bartlett et al., 2004, p. 731). The beginning ofthe 60`s marked a new dawn with movements beginning to advocate forabortion to defend the existence of the mom, in the case of rape andincest (Reagan, 1997, p. 1868). By 1972, 15 states had passed suchlaws. In 1973, the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade granted women theright to privacy that prevents the state from banning abortion before&quotviability.&quot (p. 1872).

Thepeople affected by laws on abortion are expectant mothers and theirbabies (Yalom, 2001). Abortion, as a global issue, has an impact onall classes and types of people that have the natural capacity toprocreate (Mohr, 1978). Since abortion was made legal in 1973, morethan 50 million babies have died, with more than 3,000 killed everyday. It is an undeniable fact that the 50 million lives lost wouldhave contributed to the economy of the country (McBride, 2008, p.18). With more people, the U.S. would have a higher GDP, which wouldgreatly diminish the burden of the government`s spending. Abortion isan important topic because it is enveloped by moral, social andreligious issues surrounding the intentional killing of a fetus,hence a very sensitive topic of discussion (p. 24). The subsequentsection of this paper sheds light on the various relevant cases

SupremeCourt Cases of Abortion

Roev. Wade

In1969, McCorvey Norma realized that she was expectant with her thirdchild. She falsely asserted that she was raped so that she wouldprocure a legal abortion. The Texas decree, enforced by the thenDallas district attorney Henry Wade, prohibited persons fromadministering to expectant women, any drug or procedures to procurean abortion, except for when the mother`s life is hanging by a thinthread (Hood &amp Kavass, 1991). According to Wade, Roe was inperfect health, so obtaining an abortion was illegal and unwarranted.It is on these grounds that Jane Roe filed an objection in thefederal district court of Dallas, Texas, querying laws forbiddingabortion except for the sake of saving the life of the mother(Callahan, 1970, p. 442). Jane Roe`s actions were a blanket deed,suing not only on her behalf but on behalf of all the women who wouldfind themselves pregnant and would not want to carry the pregnancy toterm (Cates et al., 1978, p. 201).

Thecourt dispensed its verdict on the 22ndof January 1973 with a 7-2 majority vote in favor of Jane Roe. HarryBlackmun`s court held that the Fourteenth Amendment`s assurance ofliberty entails a &quotright to privacy,&quot which includes awoman`s &quotprivate right&quot to terminate her pregnancy(Henshaw, 1998, p. 263). In addition to this, the court fashioned athree-tier approach to the synthesis of the abortion concern: in thefirst trimester the state need not limit abortion because procuringan abortion within the first three months of pregnancy presents lowerrisks to the expectant mothers than giving birth (Callahan, 1970, p.412). Over the second trimester, the court ruled that the state maycontrol abortion, but only for the purpose of advancing the health ofthe mother. After viability (15-20 weeks), the court held that thestate can regulate abortion by safeguarding &quotpotential life,&quotwith the exception for the mother`s health and life (Bartlett et al.,2004, p. 733).

Doev. Bolton

Onthe same day Roev. Wade`scourt ruling was delivered, the Supreme Court issued a verdict in acohort case, Doev. Bolton,which queried Georgia`s law regarding abortion laws (Berlatsky,2011). The plaintiff, under the pseudonym &quotMary Doe&quot, suedthe then Georgia Attorney General Arthur Bolton, after being shorn ofan opportunity to procure an abortion. Mary Doe, a 22-year-old motherof three, was eight weeks pregnant at the time the litigation wasfiled (Jones &amp Kooistra, 2011, p. 44). Therefore, Mary Doe wasseeking an abortion to stop her from giving birth to a fourth baby atsuch a tender age (Yalom, 2001). However, she was denied the chanceto do so because the Georgia State decree endorsed abortion only incases of significant fetal deformity, rape or the probability ofthere being a fatal or severe injury to the mother (Henshaw, 1998, p.273).

Allthe pre-requisite tests before an abortion were performed by a dulyqualified and registered Georgia physician. In the same 7-2 majorityto the Roev. Wade case,the ruling was made in favor of the plaintiff (Jones &amp Kooistra,2011, p. 41). The court echoed the protected &quotright to privacy,&quotwhich applied to matters regarding contraception, procreation,marriage, education, child rearing and family relationships (p. 43).The court held that abortion can be done with the discretion of aclinician`s &quotbest clinical finding.&quot (Hood &amp Kavass,1991). Furthermore, the court ruled that the abortion be performed ina recognized hospital, the procedure approved by the hospital`sabortion committee, the mother be a resident of Georgia and that theperforming physician`s judgment be endorsed by the autonomousinvestigations of two other qualified and licensed Georgia Statephysicians (Lawson et al., 1994, p. 1368).

Harrisv. McRae

TheHyde Amendment was instituted to restrict the usage of nationalMedicaid funds for the purpose of procuring abortions, except in thecase of a pregnancy jeopardizing the life of the mother or if thepregnancy was as a result of rape or incest (Scott, 2002). CoraMcRae, a recipient of Medicaid, sought medical funds to do anabortion that did not meet these predetermined prospects (p. 212).Ever since 1976, Congress had prohibited the use of nationalresources to foot the bills for abortion under the Medicaid programwith the exception of certain circumstances. However, on the 15th ofJanuary 1980, Judge John Dooling overturned the Hyde Amendment(Reagan, 1997, p. 1867).

TheHyde Amendment initially deprived the public of funding for medicallyrequired abortions, contravening the equal protection guaranteeprovided by the Fifth Amendment (Yalom, 2001). The court held thatthe Hyde Amendment violated Equal Protection Clause by creating adistinction between medically compulsory abortion and health careservices (McBride, 2008). It was decided that the Hyde Amendment isconstitutional because it does not place a governmental obstacle inthe path of a pregnant woman willing to terminate her pregnancy(invading personal privacy), but substantially withholds fundingunder certain circumstances (Yalom, 2001). The court`s holdingmandated the national government and all the states to provideMedicaid funds for all the necessary abortions for impoverishedexpectant women (Lawson et al., 1994, p. 1369).

Griswoldv. Connecticut

Thecase of Griswoldv. Connecticutwas centered on a Connecticut law that prohibited the use of anydrug, instrument or pharmaceutical chemicals to act as pregnancycontraception (Hood &amp Kavass, 1991). Estelle Griswold wasarrested for going against a Connecticut law which prohibits personsfrom preventing pregnancy through contraception. Estelle was theexecutive director of The Planned Parenthood Association ofConnecticut and her organization`s objective was to avert unwantedpregnancies and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections(Cates et al., 1978, p. 202). Griswold, in her defense, claimed thatthe state`s laws infringed her personal freedom assured by the 14thAmendment as an American citizen, including her right to privacy (p.203). According to Griswold, her legal rights as a law abidingAmerican citizen were infringed. A decision was drawn on the 7th ofJun 1965, with the Supreme Court toppling the Connecticut lawforbidding the usage of drugs and substances as contraceptives(Callahan, 1970, p. 422). The court ruled that this was a violationof Griswold`s right to privacy. In addition to this, the SupremeCourt held that the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitutionserves as a fortification with respect to the 5thBill of Rights. As a result, the court ruled in favor of Griswold (p.426).


Allthese four cases have conspicuous similarities and differences. Roev. Wade (case1) being the first case of discussion will not be deliberated inelement because of its use as a yardstick for checking thesimilarities and differences from all the other cases. Therefore,starting with case 1 to case 2’s (Doev. Bolton)comparison, it is apparent that both these landmark cases utilize the14thAmendment as a tool along which the court’s decisions were drawn infavor of the plaintiff in both deliberations. Still, case 2 isdifferent from case 1 in the sense that it does not use a 3 tierapproach in the synthesis of the issue of abortion like case 1. It isworthwhile noticing that case 1 questions Texas’s laws on abortionwhile case 2 queries Georgia’s laws on abortion. Both case 1 and 2maintain abortion is a necessary evil and hence campaign for it. Case3 (Harrisv. McRae)is elementarily different from case 1 and 2 because unlike them, case3 in focused on the usage of national Medicaid funds for the sake ofhelping needy women procure abortions.

Nonetheless,case 1, 2 and 3 advocate for the freedom of procuring an abortion bythe concerned women. In support of the court’s reasoning, Case 3utilizes the equal protection guarantee as provided by the 5thAmendment, unlike case 1 &amp 2 that quote the 14thAmendment in their determination. Case 2 &amp 3 are also dissimilaron the basis that case 2 puts forth residency restrictions althoughcase 3 is devoid of such stipulations. Case 3 is also different fromcase 1 since it does not use a three tier approach in synthesizingthe concerns about abortion. Case 4 (Griswoldv. Connecticut)has a close resemblance with case 1 &amp 2 in the sense that theyall quote the 14thAmendment’s “right to privacy” clause in their determination.Furthermore, cases 1, 2, 3 and 4 all have the decisions ruled infavor of the plaintiff, which is yet another outstanding similarity.Case 4 also bears close resemblance to case 3 because they bothmention the 5thAmendment in the determination of their verdict. However, the majordifference between case 4 and the rest cases is that case 4 advocatesfor use of drugs as contraceptives whereas the other cases aredirectly touching on abortion as a national issue.

Similarto these four cases, there are two precise ones known for theirlandmark case standing. For instance, in PlannedParenthood v. Casey,the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote affirmed its 1973 decision of Roev. Wade,which instituted a constitutional right to abortion as per the DueProcess Clause of the 14thAmendment, explaining that this concept is based on “personalliberty.” Likewise in 2013, the Supreme Court in the WholeWoman’s Health v. Colecase evaluated a Texas law mandating all abortion clinics to conformto the safety and cleanliness standards of other surgery centers fortheir doctors to perform abortions. The question was whether this“undue burden” placed by the state should restrict a woman’saccess to government provided abortion services in its quest ofproviding health care services to its citizens.


Inlight of the four cases discussed in this paper, the 14thAmendment assures the liberty which entails a &quotright toprivacy,&quot including a woman`s &quotprivate right&quot toterminate her pregnancy. Therefore, in the future, a woman’sdecision of whether or not to carry her pregnancy to term should notbe interfered with by the state through the imposition of “undueburdens.” A woman has the personal liberty to decide whether or notto procure an abortion. To change the situation in the future, thestate should lift any legislation infringing a lady’s personalrights by imposing “undue burden” as deliberated in the 2003WholeWoman’s Health v. Cole case.


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