(Reuters) – The major United States Supreme Court rulings on abortion, dating from the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide, have long caused social, religious and political tensions.
While the majority of courts have become more conservative over the decades, they have established standards that improve states’ ability to regulate abortion. Yet even in the most recent decisions, extending through 2007, there have never been five votes on the nine-member tribunal to overturn the basic right to abortion.
Here is an overview of the main abortion court decisions.
Roe v. Wade, 1973, 7-2 voices
The court decides that a woman’s constitutional right to privacy protects her decision to terminate a pregnancy, and only a compelling state interest can justify regulating abortion. The ruling institutes a three-part legal test, linked to a nine-month pregnancy and fetal viability, which gives states more leeway to regulate each trimester.
Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 1992, 5-4 votes
The court affirms the right to abortion. Rather than the trimester setting, the test is whether government regulations impose an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion by creating a “substantial obstacle” to the procedure before the fetus develops to the point of becoming viable. .
Stenberg v. Carhart, 2000, 5-4 voices
The court rules that a Nebraska ban on a late procedure that critics call “partial birth abortion” violates a woman’s right to abortion. The procedure, known medically as “intact dilation and extraction,” involves a doctor removing most of the intact fetus rather than dismembering it. The judges criticize Nebraska’s ban, similar to the laws of most states at the time, its ambiguity over the precise type of medical procedure prohibited and the lack of exceptions for the health of the mother.
Gonzales v. Carhart, 2007, 5-4 votes
The court rules that a federal partial birth abortion law, involving the same type of procedure as in the Nebraska conflict and without exception for women’s health, is constitutional. The majority distinguish the decision from the 2000 case by noting that Congress has developed conclusions that the procedure would never be necessary for the health of the mother. Another factor in the reverse course was that in 2000 Judge Sandra Day O’Connor voted to overturn the ban on partial births. She was replaced by Samuel Alito in 2006, and in 2007 he cast the fifth vote in favor of the ban.
Whole woman’s health c. Hellerstedt, 2016, vote 5-3
The court struck down a Texas abortion law imposing strict regulations on doctors and facilities, ruling that the 2013 law placed an undue burden on women exercising their right under the U.S. Constitution to terminate a pregnancy. The court says the two provisions of the law – requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hard-to-obtain “admission privileges” at a local hospital and forcing clinics to install expensive hospital-grade facilities – violate rights. to abortion. The decision marked the strongest endorsement of abortion rights in the United States since the 1992 decision of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.
Compiled by Joan Biskupic in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham