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October 3, 2007

Abortion Politics: Clinical Freedom, Trust in the Judiciary, and the Autonomy of Women

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC; and Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland.

JAMA. 2007;298(13):1562-1564. doi:10.1001/jama.298.13.1562

During their Senate confirmation hearings in 2005/2006, now Chief Justice John G. Roberts1 and Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito2 pledged to “respect under principles of stare decisis” (“to stand by things decided”), the precedents of Roe v Wade3 and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v Casey.4 These cases established that (1) before viability, the state may not impose an “undue burden” on a woman's right to choose to have an abortion; (2) after viability, the state has the power to restrict abortion if the law contains an exception for pregnancies that endanger a woman's life or health; and (3) the state has legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus. Affirming these central holdings numerous times since 1973, the Supreme Court has stated clearly that the government has an obligation to protect the health of the woman.

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