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Hastings Cent Rep. 1986 Oct;16(5):26-7.

Roe v. Wade reaffirmed, again.



Annas reviews the Supreme Court's decision in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (11 June 1986), which invalidated six provisions of Pennsylvania's 1982 Abortion Control Act. The disputed provisions pertained to informed consent; printed information to be given to women requesting abortions; reporting of abortion statistics to the state health department; determination of viability; information on care of a child brought to term; and the presence of a second physician for post-viability abortions. By a five to four majority, the Court re-emphasized principles stated in earlier abortion-related decisions beginning with Roe v. Wade: the right to privacy; the detrimental effect of unclear laws on the physician patient relationship; and the weight given to previous case law in the American legal system. Annas concurs with the Court's re-affirmation of the privacy right in abortion decisions.


The majority opinions have been very consistent in the 13 years since Roe v. Wade in determiniing what legitimate restrictions US state legislatures can place on abortion decisions by women and their physicians. The Court's most recent opinion addresses specific legislative provisions designed to curtail abortions. At issue in Thornburg v. American College of Obstetricians and Gybecologists (54 LW 4618, June 10 1986) were 6 specific provisions of Pennsylvania's Abortion Control Act of 1982. The Court invalidated all 6 of the provisions in dispute: informed consent; printed information; reporting; determination of viability; postviability care for the child; and the requirement of a 2nd physician at postviability abortions. The Court restated and emphasized 3 primary points: 1) the centrality of the right to privacy; 2) the chilling and brutal effect of unclear criminal laws on medical practice; and 3) the importance of the doctrine of "stare decisis" in a government-based on lwa. That the Court did not remand the case to the trial court for further evidentiary proceedings and that the author of Wade v. Roe, Justice Harry Blackmun, was chosen to write the opinion, means that the majority of the Court went out of its way to once again reaffirm the principles enunciated in Roe.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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