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Doe v. Bolton (1973)

In Brief

Doe v. Bolton (1973): Court creates broad "health" exception for abortions after viability

1n 1968 the Georgia legislature passed a law outlawing abortion except where an abortion doctor determines, in his best judgment, that continuation of the pregnancy would endanger the mother's life or seriously and permanently injure her health, or that the baby would "very likely" be born with a grave mental or physical defect, or that the pregnancy resulted from rape.

"Mary Doe" (Sandra Cano), who was 9 weeks pregnant, filed suit claiming she was entitled to an abortion under the Constitution because she already had three children and would not be able to support another child. A group of abortion doctors, nurses, clergy, and social workers joined in her suit.

The Supreme Court agreed, and issued a broad list of reasons abortion doctors may consider in determining whether an abortion is necessary for a woman's health: "all factors - physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age - relevant to the wellbeing of the patient. All these factors may relate to health." This decision was issued as a "companion" to Roe v. Wade, making this broad health definition the standard for late-term abortions after the point of viability.

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