U.S. Supreme Court
Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)
Roe v. Wade
Argued December 13, 1971
Reargued October 11, 1972
Decided January 22, 1973
410 U.S. 113
MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.
This Texas federal appeal and its Georgia companion, Doe v. Bolton, post, p. 179, present constitutional challenges to state criminal abortion legislation. The Texas statutes under attack here are typical of those that have been in effect in many States for approximately a century. The Georgia statutes, in contrast, have a modern cast, and are a legislative product that, to an extent at least, obviously reflects the influences of recent attitudinal change, of advancing medical knowledge and techniques, and of new thinking about an old issue.
We forthwith acknowledge our awareness of the sensitive and emotional nature of the abortion controversy, of the vigorous opposing views, even among physicians, and of the deep and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires. One's philosophy, one's experiences, one's exposure to the raw edges of human existence, one's religious training, one's attitudes toward life and family and their values, and the moral standards one establishes and seeks to observe, are all likely to influence and to color one's thinking and conclusions about abortion.
In addition, population growth, pollution, poverty, and racial overtones tend to complicate and not to simplify the problem.
Our task, of course, is to resolve the issue by constitutional measurement, free of emotion and of predilection. We seek earnestly to do this, and, because we do, we
have inquired into, and in this opinion place some emphasis upon, medical and medical-legal history and what that history reveals about man's attitudes toward the abortion procedure over the centuries. We bear in mind, too, Mr. Justice Holmes' admonition in his now-vindicated dissent in Lochner v. New York, 198 U. S. 45, 76 (1905):
"[The Constitution] is made for people of fundamentally differing views, and the accident of our finding certain opinions natural and familiar or novel and even shocking ought not to conclude our judgment upon the question whether statutes embodying them conflict with the Constitution of the United States."
The Texas statutes that concern us here are Arts. 1191-1194 and 1196 of the State's Penal Code. [Footnote 1] These make it a crime to "procure an abortion," as therein
defined, or to attempt one, except with respect to "an abortion procured or attempted by medical advice for the purpose of saving the life of the mother." Similar statutes are in existence in a majority of the States. [Footnote 2]
Texas first enacted a criminal abortion statute in 1854. Texas Laws 1854, c. 49, § 1, set forth in 3 H. Gammel, Laws of Texas 1502 (1898). This was soon modified into language that has remained substantially unchanged to the present time. See Texas Penal Code of 1857, c. 7, Arts. 531-536; G. Paschal, Laws of Texas, Arts. 2192-2197 (1866); Texas Rev.Stat., c. 8, Arts. 536-541 (1879); Texas Rev.Crim.Stat., Arts. 1071-1076 (1911). The final article in each of these compilations provided the same exception, as does the present Article 1196, for an abortion by "medical advice for the purpose of saving the life of the mother." [Footnote 3]
Jane Roe, [Footnote 4] a single woman who was residing in Dallas County, Texas, instituted this federal action in March 1970 against the District Attorney of the county. She sought a declaratory judgment that the Texas criminal abortion statutes were unconstitutional on their face, and an injunction restraining the defendant from enforcing the statutes.
Roe alleged that she was unmarried and pregnant; that she wished to terminate her pregnancy by an abortion "performed by a competent, licensed physician, under safe, clinical conditions"; that she was unable to get a "legal" abortion in Texas because her life did not appear to be threatened by the continuation of her pregnancy; and that she could not afford to travel to another jurisdiction in order to secure a legal abortion under safe conditions. She claimed that the Texas statutes were unconstitutionally vague and that they abridged her right of personal privacy, protected by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. By an amendment to her complaint, Roe purported to sue "on behalf of herself and all other women" similarly situated.
James Hubert Hallford, a licensed physician, sought and was granted leave to intervene in Roe's action. In his complaint, he alleged that he had been arrested previously for violations of the Texas abortion statutes, and
that two such prosecutions were pending against him. He described conditions of patients who came to him seeking abortions, and he claimed that for many cases he, as a physician, was unable to determine whether they fell within or outside the exception recognized by Article 1196. He alleged that, as a consequence, the statutes were vague and uncertain, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that they violated his own and his patients' rights to privacy in the doctor-patient relationship and his own right to practice medicine, rights he claimed were guaranteed by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
John and Mary Doe, [Footnote 5] a married couple, filed a companion complaint to that of Roe. They also named the District Attorney as defendant, claimed like constitutional deprivations, and sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The Does alleged that they were a childless couple; that Mrs. Doe was suffering from a "neural-chemical" disorder; that her physician had "advised her to avoid pregnancy until such time as her condition has materially improved" (although a pregnancy at the present time would not present "a serious risk" to her life); that, pursuant to medical advice, she had discontinued use of birth control pills; and that, if she should become pregnant, she would want to terminate the pregnancy by an abortion performed by a competent, licensed physician under safe, clinical conditions. By an amendment to their complaint, the Does purported to sue "on behalf of themselves and all couples similarly situated."
The two actions were consolidated and heard together by a duly convened three-judge district court. The suits thus presented the situations of the pregnant single woman, the childless couple, with the wife not pregnant,
and the licensed practicing physician, all joining in the attack on the Texas criminal abortion statutes. Upon the filing of affidavits, motions were made for dismissal and for summary judgment. The court held that Roe and members of her class, and Dr. Hallford, had standing to sue and presented justiciable controversies, but that the Does had failed to allege facts sufficient to state a present controversy, and did not have standing. It concluded that, with respect to the requests for a declaratory judgment, abstention was not warranted. On the merits, the District Court held that the
"fundamental right of single women and married persons to choose whether to have children is protected by the Ninth Amendment, through the Fourteenth Amendment,"
and that the Texas criminal abortion statutes were void on their face because they were both unconstitutionally vague and constituted an overbroad infringement of the plaintiffs' Ninth Amendment rights. The court then held that abstention was warranted with respect to the requests for an injunction. It therefore dismissed the Does' complaint, declared the abortion statutes void, and dismissed the application for injunctive relief. 314 F.Supp. 1217, 1225 (ND Tex.1970).
The plaintiffs Roe and Doe and the intervenor Hallford, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1253, have appealed to this Court from that part of the District Court's judgment denying the injunction. The defendant District Attorney has purported to cross-appeal, pursuant to the same statute, from the court's grant of declaratory relief to Roe and Hallford. Both sides also have taken protective appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. That court ordered the appeals held in abeyance pending decision here. We postponed decision on jurisdiction to the hearing on the merits. 402 U.S. 941 (1971)
It might have been preferable if the defendant, pursuant to our Rule 20, had presented to us a petition for certiorari before judgment in the Court of Appeals with respect to the granting of the plaintiffs' prayer for declaratory relief. Our decisions in Mitchell v. Donovan, 398 U. S. 427 (1970), and Gunn v. University Committee, 399 U. S. 383 (1970), are to the effect that § 1253 does not authorize an appeal to this Court from the grant or denial of declaratory relief alone. We conclude, nevertheless, that those decisions do not foreclose our review of both the injunctive and the declaratory aspects of a case of this kind when it is properly here, as this one is, on appeal under 1253 from specific denial of injunctive relief, and the arguments as to both aspects are necessarily identical. See Carter v. Jury Comm'n, 396 U. S. 320 (1970); Florida Lime Growers v. Jacobsen, 362 U. S. 73, 80-81 (1960). It would be destructive of time and energy for all concerned were we to rule otherwise. Cf. Doe v. Bolton, post, p. 179.
We are next confronted with issues of justiciability, standing, and abstention. Have Roe and the Does established that "personal stake in the outcome of the controversy," Baker v. Carr, 369 U. S. 186, 204 (1962), that insures that
"the dispute sought to be adjudicated will be presented in an adversary context and in a form historically viewed as capable of judicial resolution,"
Flast v. Cohen, 392 U. S. 83, 101 (1968), and Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U. S. 727, 732 (1972)? And what effect did the pendency of criminal abortion charges against Dr. Hallford in state court have upon the propriety of the federal court's granting relief to him as a plaintiff-intervenor?
A. Jane Roe. Despite the use of the pseudonym, no suggestion is made that Roe is a fictitious person. For purposes of her case, we accept as true, and as established, her existence; her pregnant state, as of the inception of her suit in March 1970 and as late as May 21 of that year when she filed an alias affidavit with the District Court; and her inability to obtain a legal abortion in Texas.
Viewing Roe's case as of the time of its filing and thereafter until as late a May, there can be little dispute that it then presented a case or controversy and that, wholly apart from the class aspects, she, as a pregnant single woman thwarted by the Texas criminal abortion laws, had standing to challenge those statutes. Abele v. Markle, 452 F.2d 1121, 1125 (CA2 1971); Crossen v. Breckenridge, 446 F.2d 833, 838-839 (CA6 1971); Poe v. Menghini, 339 F.Supp. 986, 990-991 (Kan.1972). See Truax v. Raich, 239 U. S. 33 (1915). Indeed, we do not read the appellee's brief as really asserting anything to the contrary. The "logical nexus between the status asserted and the claim sought to be adjudicated," Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. at 102, and the necessary degree of contentiousness, Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U. S. 103 (1969), are both present.
The appellee notes, however, that the record does not disclose that Roe was pregnant at the time of the District Court hearing on May 22, 1970, [Footnote 6] or on the following June 17 when the court's opinion and judgment were filed. And he suggests that Roe's case must now be moot because she and all other members of her class are no longer subject to any 1970 pregnancy.
The usual rule in federal cases is that an actual controversy must exist at stages of appellate or certiorari review, and not simply at the date the action is initiated. United States v. Munsingwear, Inc., 340 U. S. 36 (1950); Golden v. Zwickler, supra; SEC v. Medical Committee for Human Rights, 404 U. S. 403 (1972).
But when, as here, pregnancy is a significant fact in the litigation, the normal 266-day human gestation period is so short that the pregnancy will come to term before the usual appellate process is complete. If that termination makes a case moot, pregnancy litigation seldom will survive much beyond the trial stage, and appellate review will be effectively denied. Our law should not be that rigid. Pregnancy often comes more than once to the same woman, and in the general population, if man is to survive, it will always be with us. Pregnancy provides a classic justification for a conclusion of nonmootness. It truly could be "capable of repetition, yet evading review." Southern Pacific Terminal Co. v. ICC, 219 U. S. 498, 515 (1911). See Moore v. Ogilvie, 394 U. S. 814, 816 (1969); Carroll v. Princess Anne, 393 U. S. 175, 178-179 (1968); United States v. W. T. Grant Co., 345 U. S. 629, 632-633 (1953).
We, therefore, agree with the District Court that Jane Roe had standing to undertake this litigation, that she presented a justiciable controversy, and that the termination of her 1970 pregnancy has not rendered her case moot.
B. Dr. Hallford. The doctor's position is different. He entered Roe's litigation as a plaintiff-intervenor, alleging in his complaint that he:
"[I]n the past has been arrested for violating the Texas Abortion Laws and at the present time stands charged by indictment with violating said laws in the Criminal District Court of Dallas County, Texas to-wit: (1) The State of Texas vs.
James H. Hallford, No. C-69-5307-IH, and (2) The State of Texas vs. James H. Hallford, No. C-692524-H. In both cases, the defendant is charged with abortion. . . ."
In his application for leave to intervene, the doctor made like representations as to the abortion charges pending in the state court. These representations were also repeated in the affidavit he executed and filed in support of his motion for summary judgment.
Dr. Hallford is, therefore, in the position of seeking, in a federal court, declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to the same statutes under which he stands charged in criminal prosecutions simultaneously pending in state court. Although he stated that he has been arrested in the past for violating the State's abortion laws, he makes no allegation of any substantial and immediate threat to any federally protected right that cannot be asserted in his defense against the state prosecutions. Neither is there any allegation of harassment or bad faith prosecution. In order to escape the rule articulated in the cases cited in the next paragraph of this opinion that, absent harassment and bad faith, a defendant in a pending state criminal case cannot affirmatively challenge in federal court the statutes under which the State is prosecuting him, Dr. Hallford seeks to distinguish his status as a present state defendant from his status as a "potential future defendant," and to assert only the latter for standing purposes here.
We see no merit in that distinction. Our decision in Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U. S. 66 (1971), compels the conclusion that the District Court erred when it granted declaratory relief to Dr. Hallford instead of refraining from so doing. The court, of course, was correct in refusing to grant injunctive relief to the doctor. The reasons supportive of that action, however, are those expressed in Samuels v. Mackell, supra, and in Younger v.
Harris, 401 U. S. 37 (1971); Boyle v. Landry, 401 U. S. 77 (1971); Perez v. Ledesma, 401 U. S. 82 (1971); and Byrne v. Karaleis, 401 U. S. 216 (1971). See also Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U. S. 479 (1965). We note, in passing, that Younger and its companion cases were decided after the three-judge District Court decision in this case.
Dr. Hallford's complaint in intervention, therefore, is to be dismissed. [Footnote 7] He is remitted to his defenses in the state criminal proceedings against him. We reverse the judgment of the District Court insofar as it granted Dr. Hallford relief and failed to dismiss his complaint in intervention.
C. The Does. In view of our ruling as to Roe's standing in her case, the issue of the Does' standing in their case has little significance. The claims they assert are essentially the same as those of Roe, and they attack the same statutes. Nevertheless, we briefly note the Does' posture.
Their pleadings present them as a childless married couple, the woman not being pregnant, who have no desire to have children at this time because of their having received medical advice that Mrs. Doe should avoid pregnancy, and for "other highly personal reasons." But they "fear . . . they may face the prospect of becoming
parents." And if pregnancy ensues, they "would want to terminate" it by an abortion. They assert an inability to obtain an abortion legally in Texas and, consequently, the prospect of obtaining an illegal abortion there or of going outside Texas to some place where the procedure could be obtained legally and competently.
We thus have as plaintiffs a married couple who have, as their asserted immediate and present injury, only an alleged "detrimental effect upon [their] marital happiness" because they are forced to "the choice of refraining from normal sexual relations or of endangering Mary Doe's health through a possible pregnancy." Their claim is that, sometime in the future, Mrs. Doe might become pregnant because of possible failure of contraceptive measures, and, at that time in the future, she might want an abortion that might then be illegal under the Texas statutes.
This very phrasing of the Does' position reveals its speculative character. Their alleged injury rests on possible future contraceptive failure, possible future pregnancy, possible future unpreparedness for parenthood, and possible future impairment of health. Any one or more of these several possibilities may not take place, and all may not combine. In the Does' estimation, these possibilities might have some real or imagined impact upon their marital happiness. But we are not prepared to say that the bare allegation of so indirect an injury is sufficient to present an actual case or controversy. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. at 41-42; Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. at 109-110; Abele v. Markle, 452 F.2d at 1124-1125; Crossen v. Breckenridge, 446 F.2d at 839. The Does' claim falls far short of those resolved otherwise in the cases that the Does urge upon us, namely, Investment Co. Institute v. Camp, 401 U. S. 617 (1971); Data Processing Service v. Camp, 397 U. S. 150 (1970);
and Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U. S. 97 (1968). See also Truax v. Raich, 239 U. S. 33 (1915).
The Does therefore are not appropriate plaintiffs in this litigation. Their complaint was properly dismissed by the District Court, and we affirm that dismissal.
The principal thrust of appellant's attack on the Texas statutes is that they improperly invade a right, said to be possessed by the pregnant woman, to choose to terminate her pregnancy. Appellant would discover this right in the concept of personal "liberty" embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause; or in personal, marital, familial, and sexual privacy said to be protected by the Bill of Rights or its penumbras, see Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479 (1965); Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U. S. 438 (1972); id. at 460 (WHITE, J., concurring in result); or among those rights reserved to the people by the Ninth Amendment, Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. at 486 (Goldberg, J., concurring). Before addressing this claim, we feel it desirable briefly to survey, in several aspects, the history of abortion, for such insight as that history may afford us, and then to examine the state purposes and interests behind the criminal abortion laws.
It perhaps is not generally appreciated that the restrictive criminal abortion laws in effect in a majority of States today are of relatively recent vintage. Those laws, generally proscribing abortion or its attempt at any time during pregnancy except when necessary to preserve the pregnant woman's life, are not of ancient or even of common law origin. Instead, they derive from statutory changes effected, for the most part, in the latter half of the 19th century.
1. Ancient attitudes. These are not capable of precise determination. We are told that, at the time of the Persian Empire, abortifacients were known, and that criminal abortions were severely punished. [Footnote 8] We are also told, however, that abortion was practiced in Greek times as well as in the Roman Era, [Footnote 9] and that "it was resorted to without scruple." [Footnote 10] The Ephesian, Soranos, often described as the greatest of the ancient gynecologists, appears to have been generally opposed to Rome's prevailing free-abortion practices. He found it necessary to think first of the life of the mother, and he resorted to abortion when, upon this standard, he felt the procedure advisable. [Footnote 11] Greek and Roman law afforded little protection to the unborn. If abortion was prosecuted in some places, it seems to have been based on a concept of a violation of the father's right to his offspring. Ancient religion did not bar abortion. [Footnote 12]
2. The Hippocratic Oath. What then of the famous Oath that has stood so long as the ethical guide of the medical profession and that bears the name of the great Greek (460(?)-377(?) B. C.), who has been described
as the Father of Medicine, the "wisest and the greatest practitioner of his art," and the "most important and most complete medical personality of antiquity," who dominated the medical schools of his time, and who typified the sum of the medical knowledge of the past? [Footnote 13] The Oath varies somewhat according to the particular translation, but in any translation the content is clear:
"I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner, I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion, [Footnote 14]"
"I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly, I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. [Footnote 15]"
Although the Oath is not mentioned in any of the principal briefs in this case or in Doe v. Bolton, post, p. 179, it represents the apex of the development of strict ethical concepts in medicine, and its influence endures to this day. Why did not the authority of Hippocrates dissuade abortion practice in his time and that of Rome? The late Dr. Edelstein provides us with a theory: [Footnote 16] The Oath was not uncontested even in Hippocrates' day; only the Pythagorean school of philosophers frowned upon the related act of suicide. Most Greek thinkers, on the other hand, commended abortion, at least prior to viability. See Plato, Republic, V, 461; Aristotle, Politics, VII, 1335b 25. For the Pythagoreans, however, it was a matter of dogma. For them, the embryo was animate from the moment of conception, and abortion meant destruction of a living being. The abortion clause of the Oath, therefore, "echoes Pythagorean doctrines,"
and "[i]n no other stratum of Greek opinion were such views held or proposed in the same spirit of uncompromising austerity." [Footnote 17]
Dr. Edelstein then concludes that the Oath originated in a group representing only a small segment of Greek opinion, and that it certainly was not accepted by all ancient physicians. He points out that medical writings down to Galen (A.D. 130-200) "give evidence of the violation of almost every one of its injunctions." [Footnote 18] But with the end of antiquity, a decided change took place. Resistance against suicide and against abortion became common. The Oath came to be popular. The emerging teachings of Christianity were in agreement with the Pythagorean ethic. The Oath "became the nucleus of all medical ethics," and "was applauded as the embodiment of truth." Thus, suggests Dr. Edelstein, it is "a Pythagorean manifesto, and not the expression of an absolute standard of medical conduct." [Footnote 19]
This, it seems to us, is a satisfactory and acceptable explanation of the Hippocratic Oath's apparent rigidity. It enables us to understand, in historical context, a long-accepted and revered statement of medical ethics.
3. The common law. It is undisputed that, at common law, abortion performed before "quickening" -- the first recognizable movement of the fetus in utero, appearing usually from the 16th to the 18th week of pregnancy [Footnote 20] -- was not an indictable offense. [Footnote 21] The absence
of a common law crime for pre-quickening abortion appears to have developed from a confluence of earlier philosophical, theological, and civil and canon law concepts of when life begins. These disciplines variously approached the question in terms of the point at which the embryo or fetus became "formed" or recognizably human, or in terms of when a "person" came into being, that is, infused with a "soul" or "animated." A loose consensus evolved in early English law that these events occurred at some point between conception and live birth. [Footnote 22] This was "mediate animation." Although
Christian theology and the canon law came to fix the point of animation at 40 days for a male and 80 days for a female, a view that persisted until the 19th century, there was otherwise little agreement about the precise time of formation or animation. There was agreement, however, that, prior to this point, the fetus was to be regarded as part of the mother, and its destruction, therefore, was not homicide. Due to continued uncertainty about the precise time when animation occurred, to the lack of any empirical basis for the 40-80-day view, and perhaps to Aquinas' definition of movement as one of the two first principles of life, Bracton focused upon quickening as the critical point. The significance of quickening was echoed by later common law scholars, and found its way into the received common law in this country.
Whether abortion of a quick fetus was a felony at common law, or even a lesser crime, is still disputed. Bracton, writing early in the 13th century, thought it homicide. [Footnote 23] But the later and predominant view, following the great common law scholars, has been that it was, at most, a lesser offense. In a frequently cited
passage, Coke took the position that abortion of a woman "quick with childe" is "a great misprision, and no murder." [Footnote 24] Blackstone followed, saying that, while abortion after quickening had once been considered manslaughter (though not murder), "modern law" took a less severe view. [Footnote 25] A recent review of the common law precedents argues, however, that those precedents contradict Coke, and that even post-quickening abortion was never established as a common law crime. [Footnote 26] This is of some importance, because, while most American courts ruled, in holding or dictum, that abortion of an unquickened fetus was not criminal under their received common law, [Footnote 27] others followed Coke in stating that abortion
of a quick fetus was a "misprision," a term they translated to mean "misdemeanor." [Footnote 28] That their reliance on Coke on this aspect of the law was uncritical and, apparently in all the reported cases, dictum (due probably to the paucity of common law prosecutions for post-quickening abortion), makes it now appear doubtful that abortion was ever firmly established as a common law crime even with respect to the destruction of a quick fetus.
4. The English statutory law. England's first criminal abortion statute, Lord Ellenborough's Act, 43 Geo. 3, c. 58, came in 1803. It made abortion of a quick fetus, § 1, a capital crime, but, in § 2, it provided lesser penalties for the felony of abortion before quickening, and thus preserved the "quickening" distinction. This contrast was continued in the general revision of 1828, 9 Geo. 4, c. 31, § 13. It disappeared, however, together with the death penalty, in 1837, 7 Will. 4 & 1 Vict., c. 85. § 6, and did not reappear in the Offenses Against the Person Act of 1861, 24 & 25 Vict., c. 100, § 59, that formed the core of English anti-abortion law until the liberalizing reforms of 1967. In 1929, the Infant Life (Preservation) Act, 19 & 20 Geo. 5, c. 34, came into being. Its emphasis was upon the destruction of "the life of a child capable of being born alive." It made a willful act performed with the necessary intent a felony. It contained a proviso that one was not to be
found guilty of the offense
"unless it is proved that the act which caused the death of the child was not done in good faith for the purpose only of preserving the life of the mother."
A seemingly notable development in the English law was the case of Rex v. Bourne,  1 K.B. 687. This case apparently answered in the affirmative the question whether an abortion necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman was excepted from the criminal penalties of the 1861 Act. In his instructions to the jury, Judge Macnaghten referred to the 1929 Act, and observed that that Act related to "the case where a child is killed by a willful act at the time when it is being delivered in the ordinary course of nature." Id. at 691. He concluded that the 1861 Act's use of the word "unlawfully," imported the same meaning expressed by the specific proviso in the 1929 Act, even though there was no mention of preserving the mother's life in the 1861 Act. He then construed the phrase "preserving the life of the mother" broadly, that is, "in a reasonable sense," to include a serious and permanent threat to the mother's health, and instructed the jury to acquit Dr. Bourne if it found he had acted in a good faith belief that the abortion was necessary for this purpose. Id. at 693-694. The jury did acquit.
Recently, Parliament enacted a new abortion law. This is the Abortion Act of 1967, 15 & 16 Eliz. 2, c. 87. The Act permits a licensed physician to perform an abortion where two other licensed physicians agree (a)
"that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, or of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated,"
"that there is a substantial risk that, if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as
to be seriously handicapped."
The Act also provides that, in making this determination, "account may be taken of the pregnant woman's actual or reasonably foreseeable environment." It also permits a physician, without the concurrence of others, to terminate a pregnancy where he is of the good faith opinion that the abortion "is immediately necessary to save the life or to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman."
5. The American law. In this country, the law in effect in all but a few States until mid-19th century was the preexisting English common law. Connecticut, the first State to enact abortion legislation, adopted in 1821 that part of Lord Ellenborough's Act that related to a woman "quick with child." [Footnote 29] The death penalty was not imposed. Abortion before quickening was made a crime in that State only in 1860. [Footnote 30] In 1828, New York enacted legislation [Footnote 31] that, in two respects, was to serve as a model for early anti-abortion statutes. First, while barring destruction of an unquickened fetus as well as a quick fetus, it made the former only a misdemeanor, but the latter second-degree manslaughter. Second, it incorporated a concept of therapeutic abortion by providing that an abortion was excused if it
"shall have been necessary to preserve the life of such mother, or shall have been advised by two physicians to be necessary for such purpose."
By 1840, when Texas had received the common law, [Footnote 32] only eight American States
had statutes dealing with abortion. [Footnote 33] It was not until after the War Between the States that legislation began generally to replace the common law. Most of these initial statutes dealt severely with abortion after quickening, but were lenient with it before quickening. Most punished attempts equally with completed abortions. While many statutes included the exception for an abortion thought by one or more physicians to be necessary to save the mother's life, that provision soon disappeared, and the typical law required that the procedure actually be necessary for that purpose. Gradually, in the middle and late 19th century, the quickening distinction disappeared from the statutory law of most States and the degree of the offense and the penalties were increased. By the end of the 1950's, a large majority of the jurisdictions banned abortion, however and whenever performed, unless done to save or preserve the life of the mother. [Footnote 34] The exceptions, Alabama and the District of Columbia, permitted abortion to preserve the mother's health. [Footnote 35] Three States permitted abortions that were not "unlawfully" performed or that were not "without lawful justification," leaving interpretation of those standards to the courts. [Footnote 36] In
the past several years, however, a trend toward liberalization of abortion statutes has resulted in adoption, by about one-third of the States, of less stringent laws, most of them patterned after the ALI Model Penal Code, § 230.3, [Footnote 37] set forth as Appendix B to the opinion in Doe v. Bolton, post, p. 205.
It is thus apparent that, at common law, at the time of the adoption of our Constitution, and throughout the major portion of the 19th century, abortion was viewed with less disfavor than under most American statutes currently in effect. Phrasing it another way, a woman enjoyed a substantially broader right to terminate a pregnancy than she does in most States today. At least with respect to the early stage of pregnancy, and very possibly without such a limitation, the opportunity
to make this choice was present in this country well into the 19th century. Even later, the law continued for some time to treat less punitively an abortion procured in early pregnancy.
6. The position of the American Medical Association. The anti-abortion mood prevalent in this country in the late 19th century was shared by the medical profession. Indeed, the attitude of the profession may have played a significant role in the enactment of stringent criminal abortion legislation during that period.
An AMA Committee on Criminal Abortion was appointed in May, 1857. It presented its report, 12 Trans. of the Am.Med.Assn. 778 (1859), to the Twelfth Annual Meeting. That report observed that the Committee had been appointed to investigate criminal abortion "with a view to its general suppression." It deplored abortion and its frequency and it listed three causes of "this general demoralization":
"The first of these causes is a widespread popular ignorance of the true character of the crime -- a belief, even among mothers themselves, that the foetus is not alive till after the period of quickening."
"The second of the agents alluded to is the fact that the profession themselves are frequently supposed careless of foetal life. . . ."
"The third reason of the frightful extent of this crime is found in the grave defects of our laws, both common and statute, as regards the independent and actual existence of the child before birth, as a living being. These errors, which are sufficient in most instances to prevent conviction, are based, and only based, upon mistaken and exploded medical dogmas. With strange inconsistency, the law fully acknowledges the foetus in utero and its inherent rights, for civil purposes; while personally and as criminally affected, it fails to recognize it,
and to its life as yet denies all protection."
Id. at 776. The Committee then offered, and the Association adopted, resolutions protesting "against such unwarrantable destruction of human life," calling upon state legislatures to revise their abortion laws, and requesting the cooperation of state medical societies "in pressing the subject." Id. at 28, 78.
In 1871, a long and vivid report was submitted by the Committee on Criminal Abortion. It ended with the observation,
"We had to deal with human life. In a matter of less importance, we could entertain no compromise. An honest judge on the bench would call things by their proper names. We could do no less."
22 Trans. of the Am.Med.Assn. 268 (1871). It proffered resolutions, adopted by the Association, id. at 38-39, recommending, among other things, that it
"be unlawful and unprofessional for any physician to induce abortion or premature labor without the concurrent opinion of at least one respectable consulting physician, and then always with a view to the safety of the child -- if that be possible,"
"the attention of the clergy of all denominations to the perverted views of morality entertained by a large class of females -- aye, and men also, on this important question."
Except for periodic condemnation of the criminal abortionist, no further formal AMA action took place until 1967. In that year, the Committee on Human Reproduction urged the adoption of a stated policy of opposition to induced abortion except when there is "documented medical evidence" of a threat to the health or life of the mother, or that the child "may be born with incapacitating physical deformity or mental deficiency," or that a pregnancy "resulting from legally established statutory or forcible rape or incest may constitute a threat to the mental or physical health of the
patient," two other physicians "chosen because of their recognized professional competence have examined the patient and have concurred in writing," and the procedure "is performed in a hospital accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals." The providing of medical information by physicians to state legislatures in their consideration of legislation regarding therapeutic abortion was "to be considered consistent with the principles of ethics of the American Medical Association." This recommendation was adopted by the House of Delegates. Proceedings of the AMA House of Delegates 40-51 (June 1967).
In 1970, after the introduction of a variety of proposed resolutions and of a report from its Board of Trustees, a reference committee noted "polarization of the medical profession on this controversial issue"; division among those who had testified; a difference of opinion among AMA councils and.committees; "the remarkable shift in testimony" in six months, felt to be influenced "by the rapid changes in state laws and by the judicial decisions which tend to make abortion more freely available; " and a feeling "that this trend will continue." On June 25, 1970, the House of Delegates adopted preambles and most of the resolutions proposed by the reference committee. The preambles emphasized "the best interests of the patient," "sound clinical judgment," and "informed patient consent," in contrast to "mere acquiescence to the patient's demand." The resolutions asserted that abortion is a medical procedure that should be performed by a licensed physician in an accredited hospital only after consultation with two other physicians and in conformity with state law, and that no party to the procedure should be required to violate personally held moral principles. [Footnote 38] Proceedings
of the AMA House of Delegates 220 (June 1970). The AMA Judicial Council rendered a complementary opinion. [Footnote 39]
7. The position of the American Public Health Association. In October, 1970, the Executive Board of the APHA adopted Standards for Abortion Services. These were five in number:
"a. Rapid and simple abortion referral must be readily available through state and local public
health departments, medical societies, or other nonprofit organizations."
"b. An important function of counseling should be to simplify and expedite the provision of abortion services; it should not delay the obtaining of these services."
"c. Psychiatric consultation should not be mandatory. As in the case of other specialized medical services, psychiatric consultation should be sought for definite indications, and not on a routine basis."
"d. A wide range of individuals from appropriately trained, sympathetic volunteers to highly skilled physicians may qualify as abortion counselors."
"e. Contraception and/or sterilization should be discussed with each abortion patient."
"Recommended Standards for Abortion Services, 61 Am.J.Pub.Health 396 (1971). Among factors pertinent to life and health risks associated with abortion were three that 'are recognized as important': "
"a. the skill of the physician,"
"b. the environment in which the abortion is performed, and above all"
"c. the duration of pregnancy, as determined by uterine size and confirmed by menstrual history."
Id. at 397.
It was said that "a well equipped hospital" offers more protection
"to cope with unforeseen difficulties than an office or clinic without such resources. . . . The factor of gestational age is of overriding importance."
Thus, it was recommended that abortions in the second trimester and early abortions in the presence of existing medical complications be performed in hospitals as inpatient procedures. For pregnancies in the first trimester,
abortion in the hospital with or without overnight stay "is probably the safest practice." An abortion in an extramural facility, however, is an acceptable alternative "provided arrangements exist in advance to admit patients promptly if unforeseen complications develop." Standards for an abortion facility were listed. It was said that, at present, abortions should be performed by physicians or osteopaths who are licensed to practice and who have "adequate training." Id. at 398.
8. The position of the American Bar Association. At its meeting in February, 1972, the ABA House of Delegates approved, with 17 opposing votes, the Uniform Abortion Act that had been drafted and approved the preceding August by the Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. 58 A.B.A.J. 380 (1972). We set forth the Act in full in the margin. [Footnote 40] The
Opinion of the Court Conference has appended an enlightening Prefatory Note. [Footnote 41]
Three reasons have been advanced to explain historically the enactment of criminal abortion laws in the 19th century and to justify their continued existence.
It has been argued occasionally that these laws were the product of a Victorian social concern to discourage illicit sexual conduct. Texas, however, does not advance this justification in the present case, and it appears that no court or commentator has taken the argument seriously. [Footnote 42] The appellants and amici contend, moreover, that this is not a proper state purpose, at all and suggest that, if it were, the Texas statutes are overbroad in protecting it, since the law fails to distinguish between married and unwed mothers.
A second reason is concerned with abortion as a medical procedure. When most criminal abortion laws were first enacted, the procedure was a hazardous one for the woman. [Footnote 43] This was particularly true prior to the
development of antisepsis. Antiseptic techniques, of course, were based on discoveries by Lister, Pasteur, and others first announced in 1867, but were not generally accepted and employed until about the turn of the century. Abortion mortality was high. Even after 1900, and perhaps until as late as the development of antibiotics in the 1940's, standard modern techniques such as dilation and curettage were not nearly so safe as they are today. Thus, it has been argued that a State's real concern in enacting a criminal abortion law was to protect the pregnant woman, that is, to restrain her from submitting to a procedure that placed her life in serious jeopardy.
Modern medical techniques have altered this situation. Appellants and various amici refer to medical data indicating that abortion in early pregnancy, that is, prior to the end of the first trimester, although not without its risk, is now relatively safe. Mortality rates for women undergoing early abortions, where the procedure is legal, appear to be as low as or lower than the rates for normal childbirth. [Footnote 44] Consequently, any interest of the State in protecting the woman from an inherently hazardous procedure, except when it would be equally dangerous for her to forgo it, has largely disappeared. Of course, important state interests in the areas of health and medical standards do remain.
The State has a legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that insure maximum safety for the patient. This interest obviously extends at least to the performing physician and his staff, to the facilities involved, to the availability of after-care, and to adequate provision for any complication or emergency that might arise. The prevalence of high mortality rates at illegal "abortion mills" strengthens, rather than weakens, the State's interest in regulating the conditions under which abortions are performed. Moreover, the risk to the woman increases as her pregnancy continues. Thus, the State retains a definite interest in protecting the woman's own health and safety when an abortion is proposed at a late stage of pregnancy.
The third reason is the State's interest -- some phrase it in terms of duty -- in protecting prenatal life. Some of the argument for this justification rests on the theory that a new human life is present from the moment of conception. [Footnote 45] The State's interest and general obligation to protect life then extends, it is argued, to prenatal life. Only when the life of the pregnant mother herself is at stake, balanced against the life she carries within her, should the interest of the embryo or fetus not prevail. Logically, of course, a legitimate state interest in this area need not stand or fall on acceptance of the belief that life begins at conception or at some other point prior to live birth. In assessing the State's interest, recognition may be given to the less rigid claim that as long as at least potential life is involved, the State may assert interests beyond the protection of the pregnant woman alone.
Parties challenging state abortion laws have sharply disputed in some courts the contention that a purpose of these laws, when enacted, was to protect prenatal life. [Footnote 46] Pointing to the absence of legislative history to support the contention, they claim that most state laws were designed solely to protect the woman. Because medical advances have lessened this concern, at least with respect to abortion in early pregnancy, they argue that with respect to such abortions the laws can no longer be justified by any state interest. There is some scholarly support for this view of original purpose. [Footnote 47] The few state courts called upon to interpret their laws in the late 19th and early 20th centuries did focus on the State's interest in protecting the woman's health, rather than in preserving the embryo and fetus. [Footnote 48] Proponents of this view point out that in many States, including Texas, [Footnote 49] by statute or judicial interpretation, the pregnant woman herself could not be prosecuted for self-abortion or for cooperating in an abortion performed upon her by another. [Footnote 50] They claim that adoption of the "quickening" distinction through received common
law and state statutes tacitly recognizes the greater health hazards inherent in late abortion and impliedly repudiates the theory that life begins at conception.
It is with these interests, and the eight to be attached to them, that this case is concerned.
The Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy. In a line of decisions, however, going back perhaps as far as Union Pacific R. Co. v. Botsford, 141 U. S. 250, 251 (1891), the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution. In varying contexts, the Court or individual Justices have, indeed, found at least the roots of that right in the First Amendment, Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U. S. 557, 564 (1969); in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1, 8-9 (1968), Katz v. United States, 389 U. S. 347, 350 (1967), Boyd v. United States, 116 U. S. 616 (1886), see Olmstead v. United States, 277 U. S. 438, 478 (1928) (Brandeis, J., dissenting); in the penumbras of the Bill of Rights, Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. at 484-485; in the Ninth Amendment, id. at 486 (Goldberg, J., concurring); or in the concept of liberty guaranteed by the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, see Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390, 399 (1923). These decisions make it clear that only personal rights that can be deemed "fundamental" or "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty," Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U. S. 319, 325 (1937), are included in this guarantee of personal privacy. They also make it clear that the right has some extension to activities relating to marriage, Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1, 12 (1967); procreation, Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U. S. 535, 541-542 (1942); contraception, Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. at 453-454; id. at 460, 463-465
(WHITE, J., concurring in result); family relationships, Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U. S. 158, 166 (1944); and childrearing and education, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U. S. 510, 535 (1925), Meyer v. Nebraska, supra.
This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation.
On the basis of elements such as these, appellant and some amici argue that the woman's right is absolute and that she is entitled to terminate her pregnancy at whatever time, in whatever way, and for whatever reason she alone chooses. With this we do not agree. Appellant's arguments that Texas either has no valid interest at all in regulating the abortion decision, or no interest strong enough to support any limitation upon the woman's sole determination, are unpersuasive. The
Court's decisions recognizing a right of privacy also acknowledge that some state regulation in areas protected by that right is appropriate. As noted above, a State may properly assert important interests in safeguarding health, in maintaining medical standards, and in protecting potential life. At some point in pregnancy, these respective interests become sufficiently compelling to sustain regulation of the factors that govern the abortion decision. The privacy right involved, therefore, cannot be said to be absolute. In fact, it is not clear to us that the claim asserted by some amici that one has an unlimited right to do with one's body as one pleases bears a close relationship to the right of privacy previously articulated in the Court's decisions. The Court has refused to recognize an unlimited right of this kind in the past. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U. S. 11 (1905) (vaccination); Buck v. Bell, 274 U. S. 200 (1927) ( sterilization).
We, therefore, conclude that the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, but that this right is not unqualified, and must be considered against important state interests in regulation.
We note that those federal and state courts that have recently considered abortion law challenges have reached the same conclusion. A majority, in addition to the District Court in the present case, have held state laws unconstitutional, at least in part, because of vagueness or because of overbreadth and abridgment of rights. Abele v. Markle, 342 F.Supp. 800 (Conn.1972), appeal docketed, No. 72-56; Abele v. Markle, 351 F.Supp. 224 (Conn.1972), appeal docketed, No. 72-730; Doe v. Bolton, 319 F.Supp. 1048 (ND Ga.1970), appeal decided today, post, p. 179; Doe v. Scott, 321 F.Supp. 1385 (ND Ill.1971), appeal docketed, No. 70-105; Poe v. Menghini, 339 F.Supp. 986 (Kan.1972); YWCA v. Kuler, 342 F.Supp. 1048 (NJ 1972); Babbitz v. McCann,
310 F.Supp. 293 (ED Wis.1970), appeal dismissed, 400 U. S. 1 (1970); People v. Belous, 71 Cal.2d 954, 458 P.2d 194 (1969), cert. denied, 397 U.S. 915 (1970); State v. Barquet, 262 So.2d 431 (Fla.1972).
Others have sustained state statutes. Crossen v. Attorney General, 344 F.Supp. 587 (ED Ky.1972), appeal docketed, No. 72-256; Rosen v. Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners, 318 F.Supp. 1217 (ED La.1970), appeal docketed, No. 70-42; Corkey v. Edwards, 322 F.Supp. 1248 (WDNC 1971), appeal docketed, No. 71-92; Steinberg v. Brown, 321 F.Supp. 741 (ND Ohio 1970); Doe v. Rampton (Utah 1971), appeal docketed, No. 71-5666; Cheaney v. State, ___ Ind. ___, 285 N.E.2d 265 (1972); Spears v. State, 257 So.2d 876 (Miss. 1972); State v. Munson, 86 S.D. 663, 201 N.W.2d 123 (1972), appeal docketed, No. 72-631.
Although the results are divided, most of these courts have agreed that the right of privacy, however based, is broad enough to cover the abortion decision; that the right, nonetheless, is not absolute, and is subject to some limitations; and that, at some point, the state interests as to protection of health, medical standards, and prenatal life, become dominant. We agree with this approach.
Where certain "fundamental rights" are involved, the Court has held that regulation limiting these rights may be justified only by a "compelling state interest," Kramer v. Union Free School District, 395 U. S. 621, 627 (1969); Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U. S. 618, 634 (1969), Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U. S. 398, 406 (1963), and that legislative enactments must be narrowly drawn to express only the legitimate state interests at stake. Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. at 485; Aptheker v. Secretary of State, 378 U. S. 500, 508 (1964); Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U. S. 296, 307-308 (1940); see
Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. at 460, 463-464 (WHITE, J., concurring in result).
In the recent abortion cases cited above, courts have recognized these principles. Those striking down state laws have generally scrutinized the State's interests in protecting health and potential life, and have concluded that neither interest justified broad limitations on the reasons for which a physician and his pregnant patient might decide that she should have an abortion in the early stages of pregnancy. Courts sustaining state laws have held that the State's determinations to protect health or prenatal life are dominant and constitutionally justifiable.
The District Court held that the appellee failed to meet his burden of demonstrating that the Texas statute's infringement upon Roe's rights was necessary to support a compelling state interest, and that, although the appellee presented "several compelling justifications for state presence in the area of abortions," the statutes outstripped these justifications and swept "far beyond any areas of compelling state interest." 314 F.Supp. at 1222-1223. Appellant and appellee both contest that holding. Appellant, as has been indicated, claims an absolute right that bars any state imposition of criminal penalties in the area. Appellee argues that the State's determination to recognize and protect prenatal life from and after conception constitutes a compelling state interest. As noted above, we do not agree fully with either formulation.
A. The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a "person" within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses,
for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument. [Footnote 51] On the other hand, the appellee conceded on reargument [Footnote 52] that no case could be cited that holds that a fetus is a person within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Constitution does not define "person" in so many words. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment contains three references to "person." The first, in defining "citizens," speaks of "persons born or naturalized in the United States." The word also appears both in the Due Process Clause and in the Equal Protection Clause. "Person" is used in other places in the Constitution: in the listing of qualifications for Representatives and Senators, Art. I, § 2, cl. 2, and § 3, cl. 3; in the Apportionment Clause, Art. I, § 2, cl. 3; [Footnote 53] in the Migration and Importation provision, Art. I, § 9, cl. 1; in the Emolument Clause, Art. I, § 9, cl. 8; in the Electors provisions, Art. II, § 1, cl. 2, and the superseded cl. 3; in the provision outlining qualifications for the office of President, Art. II, § 1, cl. 5; in the Extradition provisions, Art. IV, § 2, cl. 2, and the superseded Fugitive Slave Clause 3; and in the Fifth, Twelfth, and Twenty-second Amendments, as well as in §§ 2 and 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment. But in nearly all these instances, the use of the word is such that it has application only post-natally. None indicates, with any assurance, that it has any possible pre-natal application. [Footnote 54]
All this, together with our observation, supra, that, throughout the major portion of the 19th century, prevailing legal abortion practices were far freer than they are today, persuades us that the word "person," as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn. [Footnote 55] This is in accord with the results reached in those few cases where the issue has been squarely presented. McGarvey v. Magee-Womens Hospital, 340 F.Supp. 751 (WD Pa.1972); Byrn v. New York City Health & Hospitals Corp., 31 N.Y.2d 194, 286 N.E.2d 887 (1972), appeal docketed, No. 72-434; Abele v. Markle, 351 F.Supp. 224 (Conn.1972), appeal docketed, No. 72-730. Cf. Cheaney v. State, ___ Ind. at ___, 285 N.E.2d at 270; Montana v. Rogers, 278 F.2d 68, 72 (CA7 1960), aff'd sub nom. Montana v. Kennedy, 366 U. S. 308 (1961); Keeler v. Superior Court, 2 Cal.3d 619, 470 P.2d 617 (1970); State v. Dickinson, 28
Ohio St.2d 65, 275 N.E.2d 599 (1971). Indeed, our decision in United States v. Vuitch, 402 U. S. 62 (1971), inferentially is to the same effect, for we there would not have indulged in statutory interpretation favorable to abortion in specified circumstances if the necessary consequence was the termination of life entitled to Fourteenth Amendment protection.
This conclusion, however, does not of itself fully answer the contentions raised by Texas, and we pass on to other considerations.
B. The pregnant woman cannot be isolated in her privacy. She carries an embryo and, later, a fetus, if one accepts the medical definitions of the developing young in the human uterus. See Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary 478-479, 547 (24th ed.1965). The situation therefore is inherently different from marital intimacy, or bedroom possession of obscene material, or marriage, or procreation, or education, with which Eisenstadt and Griswold, Stanley, Loving, Skinner, and Pierce and Meyer were respectively concerned. As we have intimated above, it is reasonable and appropriate for a State to decide that, at some point in time another interest, that of health of the mother or that of potential human life, becomes significantly involved. The woman's privacy is no longer sole and any right of privacy she possesses must be measured accordingly.
Texas urges that, apart from the Fourteenth Amendment, life begins at conception and is present throughout pregnancy, and that, therefore, the State has a compelling interest in protecting that life from and after conception. We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.
It should be sufficient to note briefly the wide divergence of thinking on this most sensitive and difficult question. There has always been strong support for the view that life does not begin until live' birth. This was the belief of the Stoics. [Footnote 56] It appears to be the predominant, though not the unanimous, attitude of the Jewish faith. [Footnote 57] It may be taken to represent also the position of a large segment of the Protestant community, insofar as that can be ascertained; organized groups that have taken a formal position on the abortion issue have generally regarded abortion as a matter for the conscience of the individual and her family. [Footnote 58] As we have noted, the common law found greater significance in quickening. Physician and their scientific colleagues have regarded that event with less interest and have tended to focus either upon conception, upon live birth, or upon the interim point at which the fetus becomes "viable," that is, potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid. [Footnote 59] Viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks. [Footnote 60] The Aristotelian theory of "mediate animation," that held sway throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Europe, continued to be official Roman Catholic dogma until the 19th century, despite opposition to this "ensoulment" theory from those in the Church who would recognize the existence of life from
the moment of conception. [Footnote 61] The latter is now, of course, the official belief of the Catholic Church. As one brief amicus discloses, this is a view strongly held by many non-Catholics as well, and by many physicians. Substantial problems for precise definition of this view are posed, however, by new embryological data that purport to indicate that conception is a "process" over time, rather than an event, and by new medical techniques such as menstrual extraction, the "morning-after" pill, implantation of embryos, artificial insemination, and even artificial wombs. [Footnote 62]
In areas other than criminal abortion, the law has been reluctant to endorse any theory that life, as we recognize it, begins before live birth, or to accord legal rights to the unborn except in narrowly defined situations and except when the rights are contingent upon live birth. For example, the traditional rule of tort law denied recovery for prenatal injuries even though the child was born alive. [Footnote 63] That rule has been changed in almost every jurisdiction. In most States, recovery is said to be permitted only if the fetus was viable, or at least quick, when the injuries were sustained, though few
courts have squarely so held. [Footnote 64] In a recent development, generally opposed by the commentators, some States permit the parents of a stillborn child to maintain an action for wrongful death because of prenatal injuries. [Footnote 65] Such an action, however, would appear to be one to vindicate the parents' interest and is thus consistent with the view that the fetus, at most, represents only the potentiality of life. Similarly, unborn children have been recognized as acquiring rights or interests by way of inheritance or other devolution of property, and have been represented by guardians ad litem. [Footnote 66] Perfection of the interests involved, again, has generally been contingent upon live birth. In short, the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense.
In view of all this, we do not agree that, by adopting one theory of life, Texas may override the rights of the pregnant woman that are at stake. We repeat, however, that the State does have an important and legitimate interest in preserving and protecting the health of the pregnant woman, whether she be a resident of the State or a nonresident who seeks medical consultation and treatment there, and that it has still another important and legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life. These interests are separate and distinct. Each grows in substantiality as the woman approaches
term and, at a point during pregnancy, each becomes "compelling."
With respect to the State's important and legitimate interest in the health of the mother, the "compelling" point, in the light of present medical knowledge, is at approximately the end of the first trimester. This is so because of the now-established medical fact, referred to above at 149, that, until the end of the first trimester mortality in abortion may be less than mortality in normal childbirth. It follows that, from and after this point, a State may regulate the abortion procedure to the extent that the regulation reasonably relates to the preservation and protection of maternal health. Examples of permissible state regulation in this area are requirements as to the qualifications of the person who is to perform the abortion; as to the licensure of that person; as to the facility in which the procedure is to be performed, that is, whether it must be a hospital or may be a clinic or some other place of less-than-hospital status; as to the licensing of the facility; and the like.
This means, on the other hand, that, for the period of pregnancy prior to this "compelling" point, the attending physician, in consultation with his patient, is free to determine, without regulation by the State, that, in his medical judgment, the patient's pregnancy should be terminated. If that decision is reached, the judgment may be effectuated by an abortion free of interference by the State.
With respect to the State's important and legitimate interest in potential life, the "compelling" point is at viability. This is so because the fetus then presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother's womb. State regulation protective of fetal life after viability thus has both logical and biological justifications. If the State is interested in protecting fetal life after viability, it may go so far as to proscribe abortion
during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.
Measured against these standards, Art. 1196 of the Texas Penal Code, in restricting legal abortions to those "procured or attempted by medical advice for the purpose of saving the life of the mother," sweeps too broadly. The statute makes no distinction between abortions performed early in pregnancy and those performed later, and it limits to a single reason, "saving" the mother's life, the legal justification for the procedure. The statute, therefore, cannot survive the constitutional attack made upon it here.
This conclusion makes it unnecessary for us to consider the additional challenge to the Texas statute asserted on grounds of vagueness. See United States v. Vuitch, 402 U.S. at 67-72.
To summarize and to repeat:
1. A state criminal abortion statute of the current Texas type, that excepts from criminality only a lifesaving procedure on behalf of the mother, without regard to pregnancy stage and without recognition of the other interests involved, is violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
(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.
(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.
(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 it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.
2. The State may define the term "physician," as it has been employed in the preceding paragraphs of this Part XI of this opinion, 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.
In Doe v. Bolton, post, p. 179, procedural requirements contained in one of the modern abortion statutes are considered. That opinion and this one, of course, are to be read together. [Footnote 67]
This holding, we feel, is consistent with the relative weights of the respective interests involved, with the lessons and examples of medical and legal history, with the lenity of the common law, and with the demands of the profound problems of the present day. The decision leaves the State free to place increasing restrictions on abortion as the period of pregnancy lengthens, so long as those restrictions are tailored to the recognized state interests. The decision vindicates the right of the physician to administer medical treatment according to his professional judgment up to the points where important
state interests provide compelling justifications for intervention. Up to those points, the abortion decision in all its aspects is inherently, and primarily, a medical decision, and basic responsibility for it must rest with the physician. If an individual practitioner abuses the privilege of exercising proper medical judgment, the usual remedies, judicial and intra-professional, are available.
Our conclusion that Art. 1196 is unconstitutional means, of course, that the Texas abortion statutes, as a unit, must fall. The exception of Art. 1196 cannot be struck down separately, for then the State would be left with a statute proscribing all abortion procedures no matter how medically urgent the case.
Although the District Court granted appellant Roe declaratory relief, it stopped short of issuing an injunction against enforcement of the Texas statutes. The Court has recognized that different considerations enter into a federal court's decision as to declaratory relief, on the one hand, and injunctive relief, on the other. Zwickler v. Koota, 389 U. S. 241, 252-255 (1967); Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U. S. 479 (1965). We are not dealing with a statute that, on its face, appears to abridge free expression, an area of particular concern under Dombrowski and refined in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. at 50.
We find it unnecessary to decide whether the District Court erred in withholding injunctive relief, for we assume the Texas prosecutorial authorities will give full credence to this decision that the present criminal abortion statutes of that State are unconstitutional.
The judgment of the District Court as to intervenor Hallford is reversed, and Dr. Hallford's complaint in intervention is dismissed. In all other respects, the judgment
of the District Court is affirmed. Costs are allowed to the appellee.
It is so ordered.
[For concurring opinion of MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER, see post, p. 207.]
[For concurring opinion of MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, see post, p. 209.]
[For dissenting opinion of MR. JUSTICE WHITE, see post, p. 221.]
MR. JUSTICE STEWART, concurring.
In 1963, this Court, in Ferguson v. Skrupa, 372 U. S. 726, purported to sound the death knell for the doctrine of substantive due process, a doctrine under which many state laws had in the past been held to violate the Fourteenth Amendment. As Mr. Justice Black's opinion for the Court in Skrupa put it:
"We have returned to the original constitutional proposition that courts do not substitute their social and economic beliefs for the judgment of legislative bodies, who are elected to pass laws."
Id. at 730. [Footnote 1]
Barely two years later, in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479, the Court held a Connecticut birth control law unconstitutional. In view of what had been so recently said in Skrupa, the Court's opinion in Griswold understandably did its best to avoid reliance on the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as the ground for decision. Yet the Connecticut law did not violate any provision of the Bill of Rights, nor any other specific provision of the Constitution. [Footnote 2] So it was clear
to me then, and it is equally clear to me now, that the Griswold decision can be rationally understood only as a holding that the Connecticut statute substantively invaded the "liberty" that is protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. [Footnote 3] As so understood, Griswold stands as one in a long line of pre-Skrupa cases decided under the doctrine of substantive due process, and I now accept it as such.
"In a Constitution for a free people, there can be no doubt that the meaning of liberty' must be broad indeed." Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U. S. 564, 572. The Constitution nowhere mentions a specific right of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life, but the "liberty" protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment covers more than those freedoms explicitly named in the Bill of Rights. See Schware v. Board of Bar Examiners, 353 U. S. 232, 238-239; Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U. S. 510, 534-535; Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390, 399-400. Cf. Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U. S. 618, 629-630; United States v. Guest, 383 U. S. 745, 757-758; Carrington v. Rash, 380 U. S. 89, 96; Aptheker v. Secretary of State, 378 U. S. 500, 505; Kent v. Dulles, 357 U. S. 116, 127; Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U. S. 497, 499-500; Truax v. Raich, 239 U. S. 33, 41.
As Mr. Justice Harlan once wrote:
"[T]he full scope of the liberty guaranteed by the Due Process Clause cannot be found in or limited by the precise terms of the specific guarantees elsewhere provided in the Constitution. This 'liberty' is not a series of isolated points pricked out in terms of the taking of property; the freedom of speech, press, and religion; the right to keep and bear arms; the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; and so on. It is a rational continuum which, broadly speaking, includes a freedom from all substantial arbitrary impositions and purposeless restraints . . . and which also recognizes, what a reasonable and sensitive judgment must, that certain interests require particularly careful scrutiny of the state needs asserted to justify their abridgment."
Poe v. Ullman, 367 U. S. 497, 543 (opinion dissenting from dismissal of appeal) (citations omitted). In the words of Mr. Justice Frankfurter,
"Great concepts like . . . 'liberty' . . . were purposely left to gather meaning from experience. For they relate to the whole domain of social and economic fact, and the statesmen who founded this Nation knew too well that only a stagnant society remains unchanged."
National Mutual Ins. Co. v. Tidewater Transfer Co., 337 U. S. 582, 646 (dissenting opinion).
Several decisions of this Court make clear that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1, 12; Griswold v. Connecticut, supra; Pierce v. Society of Sisters, supra; Meyer v. Nebraska, supra.See also Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U. S. 158, 166; Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U. S. 535, 541. As recently as last Term, in Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U. S. 438, 453, we recognized
"the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person
as the decision whether to bear or beget a child."
That right necessarily includes the right of a woman to decide whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.
"Certainly the interests of a woman in giving of her physical and emotional self during pregnancy and the interests that will be affected throughout her life by the birth and raising of a child are of a far greater degree of significance and personal intimacy than the right to send a child to private school protected in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U. S. 510 (1925), or the right to teach a foreign language protected in Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390 (1923)."
Abele v. Markle, 351 F.Supp. 224, 227 (Conn.1972).
Clearly, therefore, the Court today is correct in holding that the right asserted by Jane Roe is embraced within the personal liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
It is evident that the Texas abortion statute infringes that right directly. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a more complete abridgment of a constitutional freedom than that worked by the inflexible criminal statute now in force in Texas. The question then becomes whether the state interests advanced to justify this abridgment can survive the "particularly careful scrutiny" that the Fourteenth Amendment here requires.
The asserted state interests are protection of the health and safety of the pregnant woman, and protection of the potential future human life within her. These are legitimate objectives, amply sufficient to permit a State to regulate abortions as it does other surgical procedures, and perhaps sufficient to permit a State to regulate abortions more stringently, or even to prohibit them in the late stages of pregnancy. But such legislation is not before us, and I think the Court today has thoroughly demonstrated that these state interests cannot constitutionally support the broad abridgment of personal
liberty worked by the existing Texas law. Accordingly, I join the Court's opinion holding that that law is invalid under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, dissenting.
The Court's opinion brings to the decision of this troubling question both extensive historical fact and a wealth of legal scholarship. While the opinion thus commands my respect, I find myself nonetheless in fundamental disagreement with those parts of it that invalidate the Texas statute in question, and therefore dissent.
The Court's opinion decides that a State may impose virtually no restriction on the performance of abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy. Our previous decisions indicate that a necessary predicate for such an opinion is a plaintiff who was in her first trimester of pregnancy at some time during the pendency of her lawsuit. While a party may vindicate his own constitutional rights, he may not seek vindication for the rights of others. Moose Lodge v. Irvis, 407 U. S. 163 (1972); Sierra, Club v. Morton, 405 U. S. 727 (1972). The Court's statement of facts in this case makes clear, however, that the record in no way indicates the presence of such a plaintiff. We know only that plaintiff Roe at the time of filing her complaint was a pregnant woman; for aught that appears in this record, she may have been in her last trimester of pregnancy as of the date the complaint was filed.
Nothing in the Court's opinion indicates that Texas might not constitutionally apply its proscription of abortion as written to a woman in that stage of pregnancy. Nonetheless, the Court uses her complaint against the Texas statute as a fulcrum for deciding that States may
impose virtually no restrictions on medical abortions performed during the first trimester of pregnancy. In deciding such a hypothetical lawsuit, the Court departs from the longstanding admonition that it should never "formulate a rule of constitutional law broader than is required by the precise facts to which it is to be applied." Liverpool, New York & Philadelphia S.S. Co. v. Commissioners of Emigration, 113 U. S. 33, 39 (1885). See also Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U. S. 288, 345 (1936) (Brandeis, J., concurring).
Even if there were a plaintiff in this case capable of litigating the issue which the Court decides, I would reach a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Court. I have difficulty in concluding, as the Court does, that the right of "privacy" is involved in this case. Texas, by the statute here challenged, bars the performance of a medical abortion by a licensed physician on a plaintiff such as Roe. A transaction resulting in an operation such as this is not "private" in the ordinary usage of that word. Nor is the "privacy" that the Court finds here even a distant relative of the freedom from searches and seizures protected by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which the Court has referred to as embodying a right to privacy. Katz v. United States, 389 U. S. 347 (1967).
Early American writings that show that the public schools of today are quite different from the public schools of yesteryear.
“It being one chief project of the old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures … it is therefore ordered … [to] appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read … ”1
Imagine today’s public schools in America having as their goal to teach children to read the Bible. Believe it or not, that quote is from the first public school law ever passed in America, the “Old Deluder Satan Act” of 1647. This was just the first of many early American writings that show that the public schools of today are quite different from the public schools of yesteryear.
On into the colonial and founding periods of American history (early 1600s to the late 1700s), Christianity, the Bible and creation were taught openly in public schools, and incorporated throughout the various topics of education. For example, in a 1749 booklet on education, Benjamin Franklin said the teaching of history in schools should “afford frequent opportunities of showing the necessity of a public religion … and the excellency of the Christian religion above all others.”2
When the use of the Bible was threatened to be diminished by an abundance of new textbooks available around 1800, prominent American educators spoke up to ensure the Bible’s place as America’s premier textbook. Fisher Ames, an educator and prominent statesman, said, “[I]f these [new] books … must be retained, as they will be, should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school book?”3 In a widely distributed pamphlet, Benjamin Rush (the “father of public schools under the Constitution” as well as a signer of America’s Declaration of Independence) argued from reason and revelation for the continued use of the Bible as a schoolbook.4
Even Thomas Jefferson was involved in religious aspects of education, for while US president, he made the Bible a primary reading text for Washington, D.C., schools.5
Noah Webster, one of the greatest of American educators, wrote an appendix to his 1832 school history text reminding students of the importance of the Scriptures, and warned that “miseries and evils” result from a lack of following the Bible.6 In 1844 the US Supreme Court ruled that a college could not be built that excluded teachings from the Bible.7 In fact, it was lawyer and senator, Daniel Webster, the famous “defender of the Constitution,” who argued before the Supreme Court that Christianity is inseparable from education.7
Down the Slippery Slope
Obviously, teaching a full-fledged atheistic theory, like evolution (although evolutionary ideas were being considered in America and Europe even before the release of Darwin's 1859 Origin of Species book), would have been out of the question in early America. But gradually, the first “stretching” of the Bible was done in American school science curricula in the 1840s. “Old earth” opinions from the European scientific community led many American writers to advance long-age views of geology in school textbooks. However, even when this was done, most writers made the extra effort to harmonize the long time periods with the biblical account of creation (taking either the gap theory or day-age approach).8 The Bible was still applicable to all subjects, but now it was not to be taken literally in all cases.
With the popularization of biological macroevolution by Darwin’s Origin of Species, American textbook authors had mixed responses. Some accepted Darwin’s hypothesis readily; others rejected it outright.
According to historian Edward Larson,
in 1860, famed geologist Edward Hitchcock added a section to his Elementary Geology decrying the notion that mankind came from “a mere mass of jelly.”8
botanist Asa Gray initially stuck to creation, but in later editions of his textbook dropped earlier creationist affirmations.9
by the 1890s and 1900s, evolution was thoroughly embedded in the science curricula and treated as fact.10
even teachers’ journals reminded educators not to neglect teaching evolution.10
fewer attempts to include the Bible were made in the new books, and authors did not even try to reconcile it with the popular new theory.11
One of the topics taught in the name of modern science included open justifications of racism, which could now be easily explained in terms of human evolutionary development.12 Take for example George W. Hunter’s Civic Biology (1914), which stated:
“Although anatomically there is a greater difference between the lowest type of monkey and the highest type of ape than there is between the highest type of ape and the lowest savage, yet there is an immense mental gap between monkey and man … . At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the others in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure. These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; the American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan and the Eskimos; and finally, the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.”13
Hunter’s suggested eugenics program is even more shocking: “ … if such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways of preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with success in this country.”14 Hunter’s Civic Biology actually was one of the most popular textbooks in use nationwide by the 1920s, which makes its contents all the more significant.15
American science education had fully accepted evolution and all that came with it, and rejected the last vestiges of the biblical account of origins. The science curriculum was now contributing to the decay of the public schools.16
The Schools and the Courts, Round 1
But the American nation was largely conservative Christian, and even President Theodore Roosevelt believed that “spiritual and moral training” was the most important part of American education.17 Why then was there no outcry against the new, exalted status of evolution by the Christians of America? It was because the topic of evolution was almost exclusively limited to secondary schools (high schools), and a mere 3.8 percent of Americans between 14 and 17 years of age attended school in 1890.18 That began to change as the twentieth century progressed, with the number of high school students doubling every decade up to 1920.19 With a larger portion of the American 14–17 population attending high schools, public awareness of the prominent position of evolution increased. Conservative Christian leaders like William Jennings Bryan began to warn the public of the dangerous social implications of evolution.20 This was the beginning of what modern historians call the “anti-evolution crusade” of the 1920s.
Numerous states introduced legislation in the early 1920s to block the teaching of human evolution in government schools. Tennessee passed an anti-evolution law in 1925,21 which subsequently became the subject of the famous Scopes trial, a case that brought the conflict between creation and evolution to world attention. Teacher John Scopes was charged with teaching human evolution (from Hunter’s Civic Biology, no less) in a Tennessee high school in a planned ACLU “test case.” With creationist leader Bryan as prosecutor for the state, and prominent evolutionist attorney Clarence Darrow working for the ACLU, both sides took their roles seriously. (Darrow called the trial a “death struggle between two civilizations.”22) The creationists won the case but lost in public opinion, with the “respectable” city papers caricaturing the trial as “reason” on the side of evolution against “bigotry” on the side of creation.23
The Schools and the Courts, Round 2
Nevertheless, textbook publishers realized that anti-evolution court decisions would dissuade schools from purchasing evolutionary texts. Major publishers accordingly began to tone down the dogmatic treatment of evolution prevalent in the books, and the anti-evolution “crusade” quieted down with it.24 For the next thirty years, the creation-evolution controversy was not a prominent issue, until the 1959 centennial of Darwin’s Origin of Species.25 Some scientists used this opportunity to complain about the brief treatment of evolution in American schools.24 Then in 1961 researchers Henry Morris and John Whitcomb released their book, The Genesis Flood,26 whose frontal attack on uniformitarian geology helped rebirth the creationist movement.27 The battle “between two civilizations” began to heat up again.
Then a prestigious new committee, the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), released a new series of textbooks in the early 1960s that dogmatically affirmed the teaching of evolution.28 BSCS did not fear the lack of sales if its books were unpopular, for the federal government was funding its textbook publishing.29 Private publishers followed the lead of the BSCS, and the coverage of evolution dramatically increased.28 Reportedly there were more than three times the total number of words about evolution in 1960-1969 textbooks than there were in 1950-1959 textbooks.30
In 1965, hopeful Arkansas evolutionists began litigation against an anti-evolution law still remaining in Arkansas.31 A schoolteacher took the role of challenger, backed by the powerful National Education Association.30 The US Supreme Court had just ruled school prayer and Bible reading unconstitutional in two recent cases, a hopeful sign for the evolutionists.32 Their case finally reached the Supreme Court in 1968, where the anti-evolution law was struck down.33
This was the first of several court cases fought over science curriculum content—there were also cases in Tennessee, Indiana, a second Arkansas case and a famous Louisiana case.34 Every case was decided, in varying degrees, against creationist interests. Why would this be? Why did Tennessee courts uphold anti-evolution laws in the 1920s Scopes case, despite the world press ridiculing creation, and then from the 1960s on, anti-evolution or pro-creation cases were a string of failures? Perhaps this reversal has had something to do with the fact that the field of law has itself been “evolutionized.”
Our Evolving Laws (and Lawyers)
Through men such as Christopher Langdell, Roscoe Pound, Oliver Holmes and even Clarence Darrow, in the early 1900s, the field of law has seen a shift from “absolutes” to a more flexible view of the law as an evolving science.35 In evolutionary law, the judges guide the law’s evolution, and in this view historical precedents need not restrict judges from guiding the evolution of law in the “correct” direction (whatever that might be).34 The evolutionary view of law had been taught to the majority of the Supreme Court justices by the 1960s,36 and it was only natural that they should be predisposed toward a concept (evolution) that was so influential in their own profession.
This undoubtedly had a role to play when the Supreme Court changed the view of the First Amendment in two cases in 1947 and 1962, cases that have influenced nearly every creation-evolution case to follow them.37 How was the First Amendment viewed? Today, the courts teach that the First Amendment is supposed to keep religion out of government. But the historical position of American courts, as explained by 1830s Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, was that the First Amendment was to merely “exclude all rivalry among Christian sects.”38 Even Thomas Jefferson, in a famous letter mentioning “separation of church and state,” indicated that the First Amendment would keep government out of religion, not vice versa.39
With judges who have had an evolutionary education themselves, and believe that religion must be kept out of government, it is natural that creation fares badly in our courts. Unless we get judges who will uphold constitutional laws regarding creation and evolution, there is little hope of using legislation to correct the one-sided treatment of origins in today’s public schools. [See Will Intelligence Prevail in Dover, PA?]
While a public fight was going on over what would be taught in the public school science curriculum, evolution was being applied to the schools in a more subtle manner. In the late 1800s, Granville Stanley Hall was a prominent educator at Johns Hopkins University.40 He believed in evolution and was a leader in the developing field of psychology. In 1904, he published a book on adolescence, advocating a new theory of child development based on evolutionary recapitulation.41 This theory was soon to be applied to classrooms across America.
Hall’s recapitulation belief was that child development reflected evolutionary ancestry; certain ages, he argued, represented stages of evolutionary development. Infancy and early childhood corresponded to early “pre-civilized” mankind just grown out of its animal stage.42 Ages 6–7 were “crisis” years, where children could enter school and leave the “pre-civilized” state behind.41 Ages 8–12 corresponded to “the world of early pigmies.”41 Ages 13–18 were what he declared to be the stage of adolescence.41 This period, Hall claimed, was critical, as the child entered a “stormy” ancient civilization stage,43 and finally grew into full civilization.
Hall’s book was a major influence on the public schools as age segregation became more emphasized.44 Before Hall, the “stormy” period of adolescence was virtually unknown. John Quincy Adams, later to become US president, received a diplomatic appointment overseas for the federal government when he was only fourteen years old.45 For those who acquired a college education in the 1700s, thirteen-year-old freshmen were not uncommon.44 But Hall made little allowance for the fact that children mature differently. Now all six-year-olds, seven-year-olds and eight-year-olds get their own classes, learn to stick with their age group peers, and it is regarded as odd—if not suspicious—if a ten-year-old associates with a fifteen-year-old. Today it is often a terrible thing for a child to be ahead of his peers—public school children must fit into Hall’s evolutionary mold. (Perhaps this is why we don’t see children like John Quincy Adams anymore.)
Hall’s theory was widely accepted because it was in full character with the mood of academia at the start of the twentieth century. Freud’s humanistic psychology was growing in acceptance, and Hall was a leader in psychology.46 The theory of embryonic recapitulation was also popular, and Hall merely extended this belief (namely, that human embryos recapitulate—or retrace—their evolutionary history) to children after they were born.45 Thus, the days of the one-room schoolhouse were numbered, and age segregation became more and more emphasized. Age segregation, it should be noted, is certainly foreign to “real life,” where one must interact with people of all ages. (Incidentally, even Benjamin Rush, one of the “fathers” of American public schools, stated that public schools should imitate conditions of a “private family.”47) So when creationists began fighting in the 1920s to keep evolution teaching itself out of the schools, the subtle application of evolution in the schools was already being made.
America’s public schools today are far from where they were originally. Evolutionary teaching and practice are everywhere—in the science curriculum, of course, but also in the philosophy of law taught in law schools today, and in the age segregation and emphasis on peer groupings that abound in schools. Even Supreme Court justices have an evolutionary basis in law that affects the way they decide education cases.
The downhill trend in the schools is already far progressed. In fact, practically every moral measurement for schools is on a downhill trend. Interestingly, these statistics break significantly for the worse in the mid 1960s,48 correlating with two significant events. First, the BSCS49 textbooks were released, reemphasizing evolution as a unifying concept in science. Second, the Supreme Court removed prayer and Bible reading from the schools. Why should students be expected to behave well when they are taught that they are just animals, and the absolutes of the Scriptures are banished from the classroom?
We must understand that the implication of evolution is that man is the highest product of evolution, and therefore man takes the place of God in deciding what’s right and wrong. The implication of creation, on the other hand, is that God created everything, and He decides what’s right and wrong. It is obvious why we have a problem with morality from the products of public schools today—they are being taught that they can decide what’s right and wrong for themselves.
The fact is, America’s public school system today is a failing effort. Religion50 and morality—what George Washington considered to be the “essential pillars of society”51—are generally not to be found in the public schools. What is being taught is rather leading to irreligion and immorality.
It is my belief that, without a national miracle, America’s public schools are without hope. The courts, the curriculum, age segregation—all seem dead-set to keep evolution as the reigning philosophy of the classroom. Are we without hope? No. In this struggle for the future of America, parents must take the prominent role in their children’s education, and restore the foundations. Parents can teach origins to their children once again—and indeed, parent education has a much longer history than public education. Noah Webster explained it well in his 1828 dictionary:
“Education: The bringing up, as of a child; instruction … To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.”52