Wait, When Are Abortions Legal? | Planned Parenthood v. Casey

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2m Jul 9, 2021

In episode 61 of Supreme Court Briefs, a complicated Pennsylvania law restricting abortions gets challenged, and pro-life folks hope Roe v. Wade will be overturned and abortions will be made illegal.

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Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
The 1980s

The Pennsylvania legislature passes and amends a law meant to limit abortions in the state. What did that law require? That a woman seeking an abortion had to give her informed consent prior to getting it. That the doctor who would perform the procedure had to give the woman what could be interpreted as anti-abortion propaganda at least 24 hours before the procedure was to take place. That any girl under 18 seeking an abortion had to get the consent of one parent. That any married woman seeking an abortion had to show that she notified her husband of her intention to have the abortion. And finally, the law required abortion clinics to be more transparent and keep better records for the state to see.

In response, a group of abortion providers, led by Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, sued Pennyslvania’s governor, Bob Casey, who had signed the law limiting abortions in his state. By the way, Casey was a Democrat, believe it or not.

You may remember them from like, almost every other episode of Supreme Court Briefs, but the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, decided to help Planned Parenthood in this case. Ok, so the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania determined that all those abortion restrictions were unconstitutional and forced Pennsylvania to not carry them out.

And so, Casey appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which mostly agreed with Casey, only concluding that the husband notification part was too much to ask since it potentially could make women vulnerable to spousal abuse, violence, or economic insecurity due to reactions from their husbands. One of the judges in the Appellate Court, future Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito, actually dissented on the husband notification part, saying it WAS reasonable.

Anyway, this time Planned Parenthood appealed, this time to the Supreme Court, who was actually very interested in looking at another abortion case since Roe v. Wade first said it was ok for women to have abortions. I do have a video on that case, don’t ya know. So here’s the thing. The Court looked a lot different in 1992 compared to how it looked in 1973 during the Roe v. Wade decision. It was supposedly a much more conservative bench. In fact, in 1992 there were eight justices on the bench appointed by Republican Presidents.

About Mr. Beat

Mr. Beat is a social studies teacher who specializes in making history and geography more engaging through entertaining and easy to understand videos. He has written songs about all of the Presidents and has created music videos for all of them.


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