Webster v. Reproductive Health Services

Appellees, state-employed health professionals and private nonprofit corporations providing abortion services, brought suit in the District Court for declaratory and injunctive relief challenging the constitutionality of a Missouri statute regulating the performance of abortions. The statute, inter alia: (1) sets forth “findings” in its preamble that “[t]he life of each human being begins at conception,” and that “unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and wellbeing,” §§ 1.205.1(1), (2), and requires that all state laws be interpreted to provide unborn children with the same rights enjoyed by other persons, subject to the Federal Constitution and this Court’s precedents, § 1.205.2; (2) specifies that a physician, prior to performing an abortion on any woman whom he has reason to believe is 20 or more weeks pregnant, must ascertain whether the fetus is “viable” by performing “such medical examinations and tests as are necessary to make a finding of [the fetus’] gestational age, weight, and lung maturity,” § 188.029; (3) prohibits the use of public employees and facilities to perform or assist abortions not necessary to save the mother’s life, §§ 188.210, 188.215; and (4) makes it unlawful to use public funds, employees, or facilities for the purpose of “encouraging or counseling” a woman to have an abortion not necessary to save her life, §§ 188.205, 188.210, 188.215. The District Court struck down each of the above provisions, among others, and enjoined their enforcement. The Court of Appeals affirmed, ruling that the provisions in question violated this Court’s decisions in Roe v. Wade,410 U. S. 113, and subsequent cases.