ROE ET AL. v. WADE,
DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF DALLAS COUNTY
410 U.S. 113
January 22, 1973
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF
No. 70-18. Argued December 13, 1971--Reargued October 11, 1972--Decided
January 22, 1973
BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C. J.,
and DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, STEWART, MARSHALL, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BURGER,
C. J., post, p. 207, DOUGLAS, J., post, p. 209, and STEWART, J., post, p.
167, filed concurring opinions. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in
which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 221. REHNQUIST, J., filed a
dissenting opinion, post, p. 171.
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.
* 1. 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 identical. P. 123.
* 2. Roe has standing to sue; the Does and Hallford do not. Pp. 123-129.
o (a) 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 [*114] must exist at review stages and not simply
when the action is initiated. Pp. 124-125.
o (b) 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. Pp. 125-127.
o (c) 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. Pp. 127-129.
* 3. 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. Pp. 147-164.
o (a) 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 attending
physician. Pp. 163, 164.
o (b) 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 health.
Pp. 163, 164.
o (c) 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. Pp. 163-164; 164- 165.
* 4. 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. P. 165.
* 5. It is unnecessary to decide the injunctive relief issue since the
Texas authorities will doubtless fully recognize the Court's ruling
[*115] that the Texas criminal abortion statutes are unconstitutional.
314 F. Supp. 1217, affirmed in part and reversed in part.
Sarah Weddington reargued the cause for appellants. With her on the briefs
were Roy Lucas, Fred Bruner, Roy L. Merrill, Jr., and Norman Dorsen.
Robert C. Flowers, Assistant Attorney General of Texas, argued the cause
for appellee on the reargument. Jay Floyd, Assistant Attorney General,
argued the cause for appellee on the original argument. With them on the
brief were Crawford C. Martin, Attorney General, Nola White, First
Assistant Attorney General, Alfred Walker, Executive Assistant Attorney
General, Henry Wade, and John B. Tolle.*
[Blackmun, J. -- Opinion of the Court]
[Stewart, J. -- Concurring opinion]
[Rehnquist, J. -- Dissenting opinion]
* Briefs of amici curiae were filed by Gary K. Nelson, Attorney General of
Arizona, Robert K. Killian, Attorney General of Connecticut, Ed W. Hancock,
Attorney General of Kentucky, Clarence A. H. Meyer, Attorney General of
Nebraska, and Vernon B. Romney, Attorney General of Utah; by Joseph P.
Witherspoon, Jr., for thc Association of Texas Diocesan Attorneys; by
Charles E. Rice for Americans United for Life; by Eugene J. McMahon for
Women for the Unborn et al.; by Carol Ryan for the American College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists et al.; by Dennis J. Horan, Jerome A.
Frazel, Jr., Thomas M. Crisham, and Dolores V. Horan for Certain
Physicians, Professors and Fellows of the American College of Obstetrics
and Gynecology; by Harriet F. Pilpel, Nancy F. Wechsler, and Frederic S.
Nathan for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., et al.; by Alan
F. Charles for the National Legal Program on Health Problems of the Poor et
al.; by Marttie L. Thompson for State Communities Aid Assn.; by Alfred L.
Scanlan, Martin J. Flynn, and Robert M. Byrn for the National Right to Life
Committee; by Helen L. Buttenwieser for the American Ethical Union et al.;
by Norma G. Zarky for the American Association of University Women et al.;
by Nancy Stearns for New Women Lawyers et al.; by the California Committee
to Legalize Abortion et al.; and by Robert E. Dunne for Robert L. Sassone.