Summarizing the Holding in the Case “Roe V. Wade”

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Updated: Nov 17, 2022
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The court does not authorize a direct appeal when there is the pursuit of only declaratory relief. The court does review the case, on appeal, because there is no reason not to if the seeking of relief when the case is properly before the Court on appeal from specific denial of injunctive relief and the arguments as to both injunctive and declaratory relief are necessarily identical (Mason and Stephenson, p. 578) Contrary to appellee’s contention, the natural termination of Roe’s pregnancy did not moot her suit.

The court suggests in its holding that the complaint The Does’ complaint, based as it is on contingencies, any one or more of which may not occur, is too speculative to present an actual case or controversy. (Mason and Stephenson, p. 573)

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Another holding is that the state does not have authority over the women’s right to make decision about her own body.

State criminal abortion laws protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman’s qualified right to terminate her pregnancy. The State cannot override that right. (Mason and Stephenson, p. 574)

While -the State has legitimate interests in protecting both the pregnant woman’s health and the “potentiality of human life”, each of which interests grows and reaches a “compelling” point at various stages of the woman’s approach to term. The court organizes the information according to the trimester of the examined pregnancy:

For the stage prior to approximately the end of the first trimester, the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman’s attending physician.

For the stage subsequent to approximately the end of the first trimester, the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health.

For the stage subsequent to viability the State, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life, may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother. (Mason and Stephenson, p.576)

Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992) the Court. (5-4) Upheld a 24-hour waiting period, an informed consent requirement, a parental consent provision for minors and a record keeping requirement, while striking down the spousal notice requirement of a Pennsylvania statute. The court overturned its trimester framework and its “strict scrutiny” standard of review, in favor of a new “undue burden” standard, proposed by Justice O’ Connor, and a floating viability line where the state’s interest in fetal life becomes “compelling.” 

Casey has replaced Roe v. Wade as the dominant precedent on abortion in the United States. It is long and comprehensive and is probably the best single examination of all the legal perspectives available.

II. The Constitution is made for people of fundamentally

differing views, and the accident of our finding certain opinions natural and familiar or novel and even shocking ought not to conclude our judgment upon the question whether statutes embodying them conflict with the Constitution of the United States. Primarily this is the intention of Lochner. The holding in Roe v. Wade preformed a similar necessary function in the United States on a federal level. The argument for the right to abortion is controversial, and the Supreme Court, though hardly as self-reflective as the Lochner finding, is aware of the unique divide the have created. The ability to provide for unlimited due process is found to be provocative and resulting in applications to the court. A Supreme Court opposed to federal interference in commercial matters reconsidered the unlimited substantive due process doctrine. The similarity is that a biological function of procreation is considered a ‘business function’.

III. The law can be forcibly antiseptic. However, this is

mandatory to make decisions that protect liberty. The inability to decide must solicit an opinion from another, higher, authority. The reasons suggested for the criminalization of abortion procedure was because the state had to protect the right of the woman from faulty medical practices, the fetus, through definition that the fetus have rights to protect, and in essence the morality of an era when the illicit sexual contact that resulted in unwanted pregnancy was condemned by convention.

However, now medical and technological advances have given a privileged ability to make distinctions above and beyond an observation of the woman, her body and the actions of the fetus. This has impacted the fervor against the right of a woman to control her biological destiny. The scrutiny of an angry public is an absolute invasion of privacy and the right to freedom of association. (Mason and Stephenson, p. 574)

“Constitutional protection of the woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy derives from the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It declares that no State shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” (Lurie, p. 328) The Federal goverment is charged with the imperative to protect all constitutional rights and freedom of choice and association are necessary protections.


Lurie, Professor J. Topics In American Constitutional

Development, 2001

Mason, Alpheus Thomas and Stephenson, Donald Grier, Jr.

American Constitutional Law, New York: Simon & Shuster, 1999

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