What is Planned Parenthood v Casey? Landmark abortion ruling at risk alongside Roe v Wade

·3 min read
Planned Parenthood took on Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey (pictured) to protect women’s reproductive rights in 1992 (AP)
Planned Parenthood took on Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey (pictured) to protect women’s reproductive rights in 1992 (AP)

Planned Parenthood has been leading the fight for women’s access to reproductive care in the US for more than a century - with one of the most well-known Supreme Court rulings on the issue bearing its name.

In 1992, the nonprofit took on Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey after the anti-abortion Democrat introduced new laws restricting a woman’s access to abortion.

Three decades later, a threat to the landmark Planned Parenthood v Casey ruling was revealed in a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion striking down Roe v Wade, which legalised abortions in 1973.

As America awaits the final version of the opinion regarding Roe v Wade, here’s what you need to know about Planned Parenthood v Casey:

In the most than 100 years since its founding in 1916, Planned Parenthood has come up against many powerful opponents of reproductive healthcare rights in the courts – even long after abortion was legalised.

The organisation has been at the centre of numerous legal battles at both a state and federal level, the most prominent being the US Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v Casey in 1992.

Planned Parenthood sued Pennsylvania Governor Casey over the 1989 Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act, under which married women would have to notify their husbands before they could get an abortion and minors would have to get parental consent.

Clinics would also be required to implement a 24-hour waiting period before a woman could get an abortion.

The lawsuit went all the way to the Supreme Court where, in 1992, the justices ruled the law unconstitutional and upheld the right to an abortion based on the 14th Amendment right to privacy which was codified under Roe v Wade.

However, the ruling did make some changes to the constitutional right laid out in Roe.

The Supreme Court removed Roe’s trimester framework for when an abortion could be restricted, creating instead an “undue burden” standard.

This undue burden standard allows states to restrict abortion access so long as it does not create a “substantial obstacle” to the woman getting an abortion before the fetus is viable.

The change paved the way for some states to implement laws such as the 24-hour waiting periods – laws that pro-choice activists argue disproportionately impact low-income women and those who live far from clinics.

Yet, despite the restrictions, Casey was significant as it upheld the landmark Roe ruling from two decades earlier.

In the majority opinion, the justices stuck with the precedent set in the 1973 case, writing: “It is therefore imperative to adhere to the essence of Roe‘s original decision, and we do so today.”

Now, that precedent and the constitutional right of a woman to get an abortion is under attack.

In last month’s bombshell leaked draft, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito specifically wrote: “Roe and Casey must be overruled.”

But Planned Parenthood is not going down without a fight.

“Understand that Planned Parenthood and our partners have been preparing for every possible outcome in this case and are built for the fight,” CEO and President Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement after the Roe draft was leaked.

“Planned Parenthood health centers remain open, abortion is currently still legal, and we will continue to fight like hell to protect the right to access safe, legal abortion.”