What was Webster v. Reproductive Health Services about?


Quick Answer

The U.S. Supreme Court case Webster v. Reproductive Health Services challenged Missouri's abortion law that stipulated public facilities could not be used to perform non-life-threatening abortions, state-supported counseling in favor of abortions was illegal and physicians had to perform fetus viability tests on women beyond their 20th week of pregnancy, according to the Chicago-Kent College of Law. The Supreme Court upheld every portion of the Missouri law.

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Full Answer

Cornell University Law School's Legal Information Institute explains that abortion providers in Missouri, under the banner "Reproductive Health Services," sued to remove the abortion law claiming it was too restrictive. A federal Court of Appeals upheld the unconstitutionality of the 1986 law, but the Supreme Court overturned the lower court's decision by a five to four vote. In its opinion, the court upheld that the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not require states to enter into the "business of performing abortions."

The American Psychological Association filed an amicus brief on behalf of the abortion providers because the organization felt the abortion restrictions created an undue psychological burden on women seeking an abortion. The APA also believed the Missouri law interferes with the professional judgment of trained professionals.

The Chicago-Kent College of Law explains that the Supreme Court answered questions about whether Missouri's law infringes upon a patient's right to privacy with respect to the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The court upheld that government aid could not be used to pursue constitutional rights in the case of elective abortions.

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