Historic Supreme Court Cases

This is a sampling of some of the major Supreme Court cases that are frequently studied in law school

Women's Rights and Reproductive Freedom Cases

Griswold v. Connecticut 381 U.S. 479 (1965) (W|L)

  • Defendants were convicted of violating the Connecticut birth control law. The Circuit Court in the Sixth Circuit, Connecticut, rendered judgments, and the defendants appealed. The Appellate Division of the Circuit Court affirmed, and defendants appealed. The Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors, 151 Conn. 544, 200 A.2d 479, affirmed, and the defendants appealed. The Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Douglas, held that the Connecticut law forbidding use of contraceptives unconstitutionally intrudes upon the right of marital privacy.

Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973) (W|L)

  • Action was brought for a declaratory and injunctive relief respecting Texas criminal abortion laws which were claimed to be unconstitutional. A three-judge United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, 314 F.Supp. 1217, entered judgment declaring laws unconstitutional and an appeal was taken. The Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Blackmun, held that the Texas criminal abortion statutes prohibiting abortions at any stage of pregnancy except to save the life of the mother are unconstitutional; that 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, subsequent to approximately the end of the first trimester the state may regulate abortion procedure in ways reasonably related to maternal health, and at the stage subsequent to viability the state may regulate and even proscribe abortion except where necessary in appropriate medical judgment for preservation of life or health of mother.

Planned Parenthood of Se. Pa. v. Casey 505 U.S. 833 (1992) (W|L)

  • Abortion clinics and physician challenged, on due process grounds, the constitutionality of the 1988 and 1989 amendments to the Pennsylvania abortion statute. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Daniel H. Huyett, 3d, J., 744 F.Supp. 1323, held that several sections of the statute were unconstitutional. Pennsylvania appealed. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, 947 F.2d 682, affirmed in part and reversed in part. Certiorari was granted. The Supreme Court, Justices O'Connor, Kennedy and Souter held that: (1) the doctrine of stare decisis requires reaffirmance of Roe v. Wade's essential holding recognizing a woman's right to choose an abortion before fetal viability; (2) the undue burden test, rather than the trimester framework, should be used in evaluating abortion restrictions before viability; (3) the medical emergency definition in the Pennsylvania statute was sufficiently broad that it did not impose an undue burden; (4) the informed consent requirements, the 24-hour waiting period, parental consent provision, and the reporting and recordkeeping requirements of the Pennsylvania statute did not impose an undue burden; and (5) the spousal notification provision imposed an undue burden and was invalid.

Heafey Law Library Research Team