January 22, 1973
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR
THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS.
A pregnant single woman (Roe) brought a class action
challenging the constitutionality of the Texas criminal abortion laws,
which proscribe procuring or attempting an abortion except on medical
advice for the purpose of saving the mother's life. A licensed physician (Hallford),
who had two state abortion prosecutions pending against him, was permitted
to intervene. A childless married couple (the Does), the wife not being
pregnant, separately attacked the laws, basing alleged injury on the
future possibilities of contraceptive failure, pregnancy, unpreparedness
for parenthood, and impairment of the wife's health. A three-judge
District Court, which consolidated the actions, held that Roe and Hallford,
and members of their classes, had standing to sue and presented
justiciable controversies. Ruling that declaratory, though not injunctive,
relief was warranted, the court declared the abortion statutes void as
vague and overbroadly infringing those plaintiffs' Ninth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights. The court ruled the Does' complaint not justiciable.
Appellants directly appealed to this Court on the injunctive rulings, and
appellee cross-appealed from the District Court's grant of declaratory
relief to Roe and Hallford.
- While 28 U.S.C. § 1253 authorizes no direct
appeal to this Court from the grant or denial of declaratory relief
alone, review is not foreclosed when the case is properly before the
Court on appeal from specific denial of injunctive relief and the
arguments as to both injunctive and declaratory relief are necessarily
- Roe has standing to sue; the Does and Hallford do
- Contrary to appellee's contention, the
natural termination of Roe's pregnancy did not moot her suit.
Litigation involving pregnancy, which is "capable of
repetition, yet evading review," is an exception to the usual
federal rule that an actual controversy must exist at review
stages, and not simply when the action is initiated.
- The District Court correctly refused
injunctive, but erred in granting declaratory, relief to Hallford,
who alleged no federally protected right not assertable as a
defense against the good faith state prosecutions pending against
him. Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U.S. 66.
- The Does' complaint, based as it is on
contingencies, any one or more of which may not occur, is too
speculative to present an actual case or controversy.
- State criminal abortion laws, like those involved
here, that except from criminality only a life-saving procedure on the
mother's behalf without regard to the stage of her pregnancy and other
interests involved violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, which protects against state action the right to privacy,
including a woman's qualified right to terminate her pregnancy. Though
the State cannot override that right, it has legitimate interests in
protecting both the pregnant woman's health and the potentiality of
human life, each of which interests grows and reaches a
"compelling" point at various stages of the woman's approach
to term. .
- For the stage prior to approximately the end
of the first trimester, the abortion decision and its effectuation
must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman's
- For the stage subsequent to approximately the
end of the first trimester, the State, in promoting its interest
in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the
abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal
- For the stage subsequent to viability the
State, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human
life, may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion
except where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the
preservation of the life or health of the mother.
- The State may define the term
"physician" to mean only a physician currently licensed by
the State, and may proscribe any abortion by a person who is not a
physician as so defined.
- It is unnecessary to decide the injunctive relief
issue, since the Texas authorities will doubtless fully recognize the
Court's ruling that the Texas criminal abortion statutes are