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Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth

United States Supreme Court
428 U.S. 52 (1976)


Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri and two physicians (plaintiffs) filed suit in federal district court against John Danforth, who was the attorney general for the State of Missouri, and others (defendants), seeking declaratory and injunctive relief based on the claim that a comprehensive Missouri statute regulating the performance of abortions in the state was unconstitutional. The case was a corollary to Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973), because the case raised issues secondary to those presented in Roe and Doe. The complaint challenged a number of provisions of the Missouri law, including § 3(3), which required the consent of a woman’s husband before the woman could obtain an abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, unless the abortion was certified by a licensed physician as necessary to preserve the life of the mother. The defendants claimed that any major change in family status, including an abortion, was a decision to be made jointly between spouses, because the abortion could affect the woman’s future childbearing potential. The plaintiffs argued that § 3(3) was solely designed to afford a husband the right to unilaterally prevent or veto an abortion, regardless of whether he was the father. The district court, by a divided vote, upheld the constitutionality of the statute as a whole. The plaintiffs petitioned for a stay of enforcement of the law pending appeal. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Blackmun, J.)

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