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People v. Belous
California Supreme Court
458 P.2d 194 (1969)
In 1966, Cheryl became pregnant with her husband Clifton’s child and sought an abortion from physician Leon Phillip Belous (defendant). Belous told Clifton that he could not perform the procedure due to California’s antiabortion laws. Clifton then informed Belous that Cheryl would obtain an abortion in Tijuana, Mexico, instead. Belous, fearful that obtaining an abortion in Tijuana would result in serious danger to Cheryl’s life, gave the couple the contact information for Karl Lairtus. Lairtus had recently moved from Tijuana to California, and Belous was confident in Lairtus’s ability to perform skilled and safe abortions. Cheryl and Clifton scheduled the procedure, and Lairtus performed the abortion. Following the procedure, the police were notified that Lairtus had been performing abortions and went to Lairtus’s apartment to investigate. At the apartment, the police found notebooks documenting the abortion procedures and information that led police to believe that Belous had referred women to Lairtus to procure an abortion. Belous was prosecuted by the state (plaintiff) for violating Penal Code § 274, under which a person who provides or assists in procuring the miscarriage of a woman, unless “necessary to preserve her life” is punishable by imprisonment. Belous was convicted and appealed, arguing that the procedure was necessary to preserve Cheryl’s life because obtaining an abortion in Tijuana would be life-threatening.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Peters, J.)
Dissent (Sullivan, J.)
Dissent (Burke, J.)
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