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Planned Parenthood of Southeastern PA v. Casey (1992)

In Brief

Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992): Court reaffirms Roe v. Wade, establishes new "undue burden" standard of review, and overturns spousal notification

The Pennsylvania legislature passed an abortion law imposing several procedural requirements on abortion doctors: to obtain a woman's informed consent, to provide her with certain information 24-hours before performing the abortion, to obtain the informed consent of one parent in the case of a minor (a judicial bypass was also provided allowing the minor to go directly to court for an order permitting the abortion without her parent's knowledge), to obtain a statement from the woman that she has notified her husband unless certain exceptions apply, and to file informational reports.

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania filed suit claiming the regulations violated Roe v. Wade. Pennsylvania defended its law in part by arguing that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. The Supreme Court issued a patchwork of opinions.

The plurality opinion of Justices Souter, O'Connor, and Kennedy is the lead opinion and precedent because each part of the opinion was joined by at least two other justices. The plurality affirmed the "essential holding" of Roe v. Wade, stating that: abortion was a basic constitutional liberty, an "entire generation has come of age" relying on Roe's "concept of liberty," and overturning Roe would "subvert the Court's legitimacy" and "seriously weaken the Court's capacity to exercise the judicial power."

The plurality voted to abandon Roe's trimester framework but reaffirmed that abortion must be permitted after viability for "health" reasons.

The plurality also set aside the "strict scrutiny" standard of review for abortion regulations in favor of a new "undue burden" standard, where a regulation would be struck down as unconstitutional if its "purpose or effect" was to "place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability."

Under this new standard, the plurality struck down the spousal notification requirement. Four justices voted to uphold all Pennsylvania regulations and to overturn Roe v. Wade.

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