Doe v. Bolton

Georgia law proscribes an abortion except as performed by a duly licensed Georgia physician when necessary in “his best clinical judgment” because continued pregnancy would endanger a pregnant woman’s life or injure her health; the fetus would likely be born with a serious defect; or the pregnancy resulted from rape. § 26-1202(a) of Ga. Criminal Code. In addition to a requirement that the patient be a Georgia resident and certain other requirements, the statutory scheme poses three procedural conditions in § 26-1202(b): (1) that the abortion be performed in a hospital accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAH); (2) that the procedure be approved by the hospital staff abortion committee; and (3) that the performing physician’s judgment be confirmed by independent examinations of the patient by two other licensed physicians. Appellant Doe, an indigent married Georgia citizen, who was denied an abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy for failure to meet any of the § 26-1202(a) conditions, sought declaratory and injunctive relief, contending that the Georgia laws were unconstitutional. Others joining in the complaint included Georgia-licensed physicians (who claimed that the Georgia statutes “chilled and deterred” their practices), registered nurses, clergymen, and social workers. Though holding that all the plaintiffs had standing, the District Court ruled that only Doe presented a justiciable controversy. In Doe’s case the court gave declaratory, but not injunctive, relief, invalidating as an infringement of privacy and personal liberty the limitation to the three situations specified in § 26-1202(a) and certain other provisions, but holding that the State’s interest in health protection and the existence of a “potential of independent human existence” justified regulation through § 26-1202(b) of the “manner of performance as well as the quality of the final decision to abort.” The appellants, claiming entitlement to broader relief, directly appealed to this Court.

Held:

1. Doe’s case presents a live, justiciable controversy and she has standing to sue, Roe v. Wade, ante p. 410 U. S. 113, as do the physician

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