Appellants: Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri, David Hall, M.D., and Michael Freiman, M.D.
Appellee: John C. Danforth, Attorney General of Missouri
Appellants' Claim: That a Missouri abortion law was too restrictive on many aspects of the abortion process thus violating the patients' constitutional rights.
Chief Lawyers for Appellants: Frank Susman
Chief Lawyers for Appellees: John C. Danforth
Justices of the Court: Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Lewis F. Powell, Jr.
Justices Dissenting: Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, William H. Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Byron R. White
Date of Decision: July 1, 1976
Decision: Ruled in favor of Danforth on some state requirements including provisions defining viability of the fetus, requiring a written consent by the pregnant women before an abortion, and keeping detailed medical records by abortion clinics. On other parts of the law, the Court ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood striking down Missouri's requirement for a husband's consent and, for unmarried minors, parental consent before receiving an abortion, prohibition of the saline amniocentesis abortion procedure, and requirement for physicians to preserve the fetus' life after an abortion.
Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth was just the sort of case the Supreme Court expected on the heels of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. The case presented many "logical [reasonable]" questions following the earlier ruling.
Decided in 1973 Roe v. Wade had been the most important and controversial legal victory for women since achieving the right to vote. Roe established a "right to privacy" involving "a woman's decision whether or not to terminate [end] her pregnancy." However, in Roe the Supreme Court "emphatically rejected" the idea that "the woman's right is absolute [unlimited] and that she is entitled to terminate her pregnancy at whatever time in whatever way and for whatever reason she alone chooses." Instead, the Court sought to balance a woman's privacy rights against a state's interest in protecting life, in this case the unborn child. The Court provided in Roe a balancing formula of acceptable action based on the three stages of pregnancy: (1) during the first three stages of pregnancy the state could not interfere at all in a decision to abort; (2) the next three months of pregnancy (fourth through the sixth month) the state could reasonably regulate the way abortions are done to protect maternal [the mother's] health; and, (3) the last three months of pregnancy (seventh through the ninth month), a stage when the fetus (unborn child) is viable (able to live on its own or with medical help), the state may greatly restrict the mother's decision to have an abortion unless it is necessary "for the life or health of the mother."
With the Roe decision, strict anti-abortion laws in many states...