WASHINGTON (BP)–The Supreme Court declined Oct. 10 to revisit one of its 1973 opinions that resulted in the legalization of abortion for all reasons throughout all stages of pregnancy.
The justices announced without comment their decision to deny a request to reverse the Doe v. Bolton decision, a companion to the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling. While the high court struck down state prohibitions on abortion in its Roe opinion, its Doe ruling defined a woman’s health so expansively as to permit, in effect, an abortion for any reason, even during the final stage of the trimester system formulated by the court in Roe.
In 2005, the Supreme Court rejected a similar request to vacate its Roe decision.
Lawyers in the attempt to overturn Doe filed medical and scientific evidence, as well as the sworn testimonies of more than 1,000 women harmed by abortion, in seeking to convince the high court that the 1973 opinion should not stay in effect because changes in the facts or law made the ruling “no longer just.”
“The court has frozen abortion law based on obsolete 1973 assumptions,” said Allan Parker, lead attorney in the case, after the Supreme Court declined to accept the Doe appeal. “Much has changed in 33 years since Roe and Doe were decided. In fact, the longer it’s been since a legal decision, the more likely that factual and legal conditions have changed in society to make the decision no longer just. When facts and legal conditions change, the court has a duty to re-evaluate and change the law.”
In its 1973 Doe ruling, the high court provided an exception from state regulations of abortion for “maternal health,” which it defined as “all factors –- physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age –- relevant to the well-being of the patient.” The result was to legalize abortion “on demand,” as pro-lifers have described it.
Sandra Cano, who was Mary Doe in that 1973 case, urged the justices to overturn the decision made in her favor. She told participants in the 1998 March for Life she never wanted an abortion and never had one.
“I was poor, pregnant, uneducated, seeking assistance and getting a divorce from a man who was a convicted child molester,” Cano told tens of thousands of pro-lifers, according to The Washington Times. “Instead of the help I sought, a feminist attorney turned my circumstances into a tool to achieve her agenda — legalizing abortion. … [M]y name has been synonymous with abortion. I was against abortion then. I am against abortion now. I never sought an abortion. I have never had an abortion. Abortion is murder.”
Norma McCorvey, who was Jane Roe in the other 1973 decision, made a public profession to Christ in 1995 and became a pro-lifer. McCorvey, who also never had an abortion, sought unsuccessfully to have the Supreme Court overturn its ruling in her behalf.
Cano’s motion to invalidate Doe v. Bolton was rejected by a federal judge and a panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals before it arrived at the Supreme Court.
Parker is president of The Justice Foundation, a San Antonio, Texas-based organization that represented both Cano and McCorvey in their efforts before the high court. The Justice Foundation has formed Operation Outcry, a project that consists of post-abortive women and others who seek the end of legalized abortion.