• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court struck down a state law containing a number of restrictions on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion, but only five justices continued to use the strict scrutiny test in evaluating the constitutionality of such restrictions.

Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act of 1982 had five major requirements: First, women were to be advised of available medical assistance; second, physicians were to inform women of the risks and detrimental effects of abortions; third, abortion providers were to attempt to save the life of a postviable fetus; fourth, two physicians were to be present during the performance of postviable abortions; and fifth, providers were to report all abortions to the state. These regulations were similar to those that the Supreme Court, by a 6-3 margin, had ruled unconstitutional in Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health[case]Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health[Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health] (1983).Abortion;Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists[Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists]

In Thornburgh, the restrictions were ruled unconstitutional by a 5-4 vote. Justice Harry A. Blackmun,Blackmun, Harry A.;Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists[Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists] writing for the majority, declared that the states were “not free, under the guise of protecting maternal health or potential life, to intimidate women into continuing pregnancies.” Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, joining the dissenters, criticized the majority for demanding an unrestricted right to abortions. Although not ready to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973), the Court’s majority was moving in the direction of Sandra Day O’Connor’s undue burden test. In the next case devoted to the question, Webster v. Reproductive Health Services[case]Webster v. Reproductive Health Services[Webster v. Reproductive Health Services] (1989), a 5-4 majority upheld a law that was more restrictive than the one overturned in Thornburgh.

Abortion

Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health

Due process, substantive

Fundamental rights

Judicial scrutiny

Privacy, right to

Webster v. Reproductive Health Services

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