John Paul Stevens on Abortion
Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. Ford 1975)
Parental notification is lower priority than maternal health
In Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, a challenge to a New Hampshire law that prohibits doctors from performing an abortion on a minor until 48 hours after a parent has been notified is heard. The Supreme Court rules that the
government cannot restrict abortions when one is required during a medical emergency.
OnTheIssues explanation: The court did not rule against "parental notification" in general; in other words, states can decide if and when a minor girl's
parents must be notified. But the court imposed restrictions: if the minor girl's life is in danger, her right to an abortion overrules the state's requirement for parental notification. Justices in the majority agree that the right to an abortion for
maternal health is the higher priority (a pro-choice stance); justices in the minority say that parental notification has the higher priority (a pro-life stance).
Opinions: O`Connor wrote majority opinion; all 8 other justices concurred.
Source: InfoPlease.com on 2006 SCOTUS docket #04-1144
, Jan 18, 2006
Supported overturning state ban on partial-birth abortion
On several large issues (with federalism a notable exception), Justice O'Connor & Justice Stephen Breyer were solidly together. Their growing judicial kinship was evidenced most proactively on partial-birth abortion, the most controversial social-issues
case of recent years. Along with 30 other states, Nebraska had outlawed this particularly grisly abortion method. [In 2000], the Court still overturned Nebraska's ban. The states were to be severely limited in their regulation of specific medical
procedures used in the abortion context.
On the subject of partial-birth abortion, it was altogether natural that the writing assignment fell to Justice Breyer (made by the senior justice in the majority, Justice Stevens) to write the deeply
controversial majority opinion invalidating the state law prohibiting the procedure. No one else would so likely win the vote of Justice O'Connor (to the dismay of Justice Kennedy) on this wrenching subject.
Source: First Among Equals, by Kenneth Starr, p. 31&41
, Oct 10, 2002
Favors abortion rights
Stevens favors abortion rights, affirmative action, and defendants’ rights. His 1995 opinion struck down state term limits on candidates for congress.
Source: (X-ref government) Reuters article in Boston Globe, p. A45
, Dec 1, 2000
Uphold Roe v. Wade: woman's right to choose.
Justice Stevens joined the Court's decision on PLANNED PARENTHOOD v. CASEY on Jun 29, 1992:
At issue are five provisions of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of 1982:
- requiring a 24-hour “informed consent” waiting period before the abortion is performed;
- mandating the consent of one parent for a minor to obtain an abortion, with a judicial bypass procedure;
- requiring notification of the husband;
- defining a “medical emergency” that will excuse compliance with the foregoing requirements;
- imposing reporting requirements on facilities providing abortion services.
Held:(Written by O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter; joined in part by Stevens and Blackmun)
Liberty finds no refuge in a jurisprudence of doubt. Yet, 19 years after our holding that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy in its early stages, Roe v. Wade (1973), that definition of liberty is still questioned.
We are led to conclude this: the essential holding of Roe v. Wade should be retained and once again reaffirmed, in three parts:
- The right of the woman to choose to have an abortion before viability.
- The State may restrict abortions after fetal viability if the law contains exceptions for pregnancies which endanger the woman’s health.
- The State has legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus that may become a child.
Dissent:(Rehnquist, joined in part by White, Scalia, and Thomas)
The joint opinion, following its newly minted variation on stare decisis, retains the outer shell of Roe v. Wade, but beats a wholesale retreat from the substance of that case. We believe that Roe was wrongly decided, and that it can and should be overruled consistently with our traditional approach to stare decisis in constitutional cases. We would adopt the approach of the plurality in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989), and uphold the challenged provisions of the Pennsylvania statute in their entirety.
Source: Supreme Court case 92-1 argued on Apr 22, 1992
Page last updated: Jan 15, 2017