Need Health Info?

Find a Planned Parenthood Health Center and reproductive health information.
Visit PlannedParenthood.org

Connect Locally

Don't know the name of your affiliate?
Find out by picking your county:

Home > Top Issues

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States The U.S. Supreme Court's ground-breaking Roe v. Wade ruling to legalize abortion was decided by a 7-2 vote in January 1973. For the next three decades the court consistently voted to uphold Roe's core values of protecting a woman's health and her right to choose. However, the Supreme Court justices' opinions on the issue now have shifted to a much narrower 5-4 majority. The confirmation of anti-choice justices to the bench tipped the scales against a woman's right to choose in 2007 when they voted 5-4 to uphold the Federal Abortion Ban.

In April 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. that the Federal Abortion Ban is constitutional. This ruling does not include an exception for a woman's health; a paramount principle that was consistently upheld by the Court in the three and a half decades since Roe.

The nine sitting justices fall into three categories on the question of choice: anti-choice, pro-choice and one is considered a swing vote.

Chief Justice John Roberts earned his reputation for opposing reproductive and privacy rights long before being appointed to the Supreme Court by George W. Bush in 2005. He voted to uphold the Federal Abortion Ban and has said that he believes Roe should be overturned.

Justice Clarence Thomas has consistently rendered decisions that reject the constitutionality of a woman's right to choose. He voted in favor of the Federal Abortion Ban and has said "Roe was wrongly decided, and … it can and should be overturned."

Justice Antonin Scalia also has repeatedly expressed his anti-choice beliefs, stating that "the Constitution contains no right to an abortion." He, too, was in the majority opinion in the Gonzales case.

Justice Samuel Alito, another George W. Bush appointee, also has made it clear that he opposes the right to choose. He has stated for the record that he disagrees with Roe and voted with the majority in the Gonzales case.

Justice John Paul Stevens has shown his steadfast commitment to protecting a woman's right to choose, casting pro-choice votes on issues ranging from public funding to the Federal Abortion Ban.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg repeatedly has demonstrated her commitment to the Constitutional right to choose, and. she authored the harsh dissent in the Gonzales case.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer has consistently voted to uphold the tenets established in Roe, authoring the majority opinion in a case striking down a Nebraska ban on abortions and voting to protect clinics from anti-choice violence.

Justice David H. Souter, appointed by George H. W. Bush, has proven to be another supporter of a woman's right to choose, voting to uphold the values of Roe in the Casey and Gonzales cases.

Justice Anthony Kennedy has a mixed record of votes on issues relating to reproductive health. He ruled once to uphold the core values of Roe, but he voted in another case to uphold a Nebraska abortion ban. Recently, he authored the majority opinion in support of the Federal Abortion Ban.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said during her confirmation hearings that Roe v. Wade is established law.

Justice Elena Kagan's writings examined during her confirmation hearings indicate a respect for privacy as defined by Roe v. Wade.

The confirmation of the next Supreme Court justice -- a lifetime appointment -- will undoubtedly have significant influence on a woman's right to choose, either tipping the scales back to a more choice-friendly Court or continuing to tear down the values established in Roe vs. Wade.

The www.PPActionCA.org web site is a collaborative project of:
Community Action Fund of Planned Parenthood Orange and San Bernardino Counties
Planned Parenthood Action Fund of the Pacific Southwest
Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific Action Fund
Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo Counties
Planned Parenthood Advocates Mar Monte
Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project Los Angeles County
Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California

A project of Planned Parenthood Action Funds in California, 501(c)(4) organizations. Copyright 2013, PPActionCA.org.
Paid for by the local Planned Parenthood 501(c)4 organization PAC and local Planned Parenthood 501(c)4 organization. (http://www.PPActionCA.org).
Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

STAFF ONLY: PPAC Intranet