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NEWS IN CONTEXT

The Supreme Court and the Future of U.S. Reproductive Rights

September 23, 2005

On September 29, The full Senate voted 78-22 to to confirm John Roberts as the 17th Chief Justice of the United States, replacing William Rehnquist. The first day of the U.S. Supreme Court's term is October 3. Bush had originally nominated Roberts to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and must now submit another nominee for that position. Justice O’Connor has said she will remain on the Court until her successor is confirmed.

A major abortion-related case, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, is already on the Supreme Court’s docket for late fall. This case involves a New Hampshire law preventing doctors from providing abortions to women under the age of 18 until 48 hours after a parent has been notified. Two lower federal courts have ruled the law unconstitutional because it does not contain an exception for cases in which the delay might threaten a young woman’s health. When the ruling on this case is issued, probably early next summer, the newly-constituted Court will likely rule on the degree to which the states and the federal government must protect a woman’s health when they move to restrict access to abortion services. While this case might not reverse the Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which gave American women the right to obtain an abortion, actual access to safe abortion services is very much at stake.

Click on the links below for more information.

The impact on women’s health and lives of unsafe abortions before Roe and what happens to women in countries where abortion is illegal today

The reproductive rights implications of Lawrence v. Texas

O’Connor’s views on health exceptions in laws restricting abortion and the health exception cases that could soon reach the Court