A Decade of Decisions
  • Leonard H. Glantz


In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down all restrictive state abortion statutes in Roe v. Wade.1 In doing so, it set forth a scheme by which the constitutionality of future statutes could be measured. In essence, the court ruled that, during the first trimester of pregnancy, the state could have essentially no role in the regulation of abortion; that in the second trimester, the state could regulate abortions in ways designed to further maternal health; and that after fetal viability (not the third trimester), in furtherance of the state’s interest in protecting fetal life, the state could prohibit abortions except those that were necessary to protect the life or health of the pregnant woman. On the face of it, these are simple rules. However, over the last decade, many states have tried to pass the most restrictive abortion statutes possible under these rules, and indeed, some states have passed clearly unconstitutional abortion legislation. As a result of these state efforts, innumerable lawsuits have been brought in state and federal courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court has decided at least 14 abortion cases since Roe v. Wade. This activity indicates at least two things. First, the deceptively simple rules set forth in Roe are much more difficult to apply than they initially appeared to be. Second, those who are opposed to legalized abortion will work very diligently to have their voices heard and respected by state legislatures. It would also seem to indicate that the legal battles fought over abortion will not soon be settled.


Maternal Health American Public Health Association Veto Power Parental Notification Abortion Case 
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Copyright information

© Aubrey Milunsky and George J. Annas 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonard H. Glantz
    • 1
  1. 1.Boston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA

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