410 U.S. 113

January 22, 1973



No. 70-18. Argued December 13, 1971--Reargued October 11, 1972--Decided

January 22, 1973


BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C. J.,


C. J., post, p. 207, DOUGLAS, J., post, p. 209, and STEWART, J., post, p.

167, filed concurring opinions. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in

which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 221. REHNQUIST, J., filed a

dissenting opinion, post, p. 171.



A pregnant single woman (Roe) brought a class action challenging the

constitutionality of the Texas criminal abortion laws, which proscribe

procuring or attempting an abortion except on medical advice for the

purpose of saving the mother's life. A licensed physician (Hallford), who

had two state abortion prosecutions pending against him, was permitted to

intervene. A childless married couple (the Does), the wife not being

pregnant, separately attacked the laws, basing alleged injury on the future

possibilities of contraceptive failure, pregnancy, unpreparedness for

parenthood, and impairment of the wife's health. A three-judge District

Court, which consolidated the actions, held that Roe and Hallford, and

members of their classes, had standing to sue and presented justiciable

controversies. Ruling that declaratory, though not injunctive, relief was

warranted, the court declared the abortion statutes void as vague and

overbroadly infringing those plaintiffs' Ninth and Fourteenth Amendment

rights. The court ruled the Does' complaint not justiciable. Appellants

directly appealed to this Court on the injunctive rulings, and appellee

cross- appealed from the District Court's grant of declaratory relief to

Roe and Hallford.


   * 1. While 28 U. S. C. § 1253 authorizes no direct appeal to this

     Court from the grant or denial of declaratory relief alone, review is

     not foreclosed when the case is properly before the Court on appeal

     from specific denial of injunctive relief and the arguments as to both

     injunctive and declaratory relief are necessarily identical. P. 123.

   * 2. Roe has standing to sue; the Does and Hallford do not. Pp. 123-129.

        o (a) Contrary to appellee's contention, the natural termination of

          Roe's pregnancy did not moot her suit. Litigation involving

          pregnancy, which is "capable of repetition, yet evading review,"

          is an exception to the usual federal rule that an actual

          controversy [*114] must exist at review stages and not simply

          when the action is initiated. Pp. 124-125.

        o (b) The District Court correctly refused injunctive, but erred in

          granting declaratory, relief to Hallford, who alleged no

          federally protected right not assertable as a defense against the

          good-faith state prosecutions pending against him. Samuels v.

          Mackell, 401 U. S. 66. Pp. 125-127.

        o (c) The Does' complaint, based as it is on contingencies, any one

          or more of which may not occur, is too speculative to present an

          actual case or controversy. Pp. 127-129.

   * 3. State criminal abortion laws, like those involved here, that except

     from criminality only a life- saving procedure on the mother's behalf

     without regard to the stage of her pregnancy and other interests

     involved violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,

     which protects against state action the right to privacy, including a

     woman's qualified right to terminate her pregnancy. Though the State

     cannot override that right, it has legitimate interests in protecting

     both the pregnant woman's health and the potentiality of human life,

     each of which interests grows and reaches a "compelling" point at

     various stages of the woman's approach to term. Pp. 147-164.

        o (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. Pp. 163, 164.

        o (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.

          Pp. 163, 164.

        o (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

          necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation

          of the life or health of the mother. Pp. 163-164; 164- 165.

   * 4. The State may define the term "physician" 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. P. 165.

   * 5. It is unnecessary to decide the injunctive relief issue since the

     Texas authorities will doubtless fully recognize the Court's ruling

     [*115] that the Texas criminal abortion statutes are unconstitutional.

     P. 166.

314 F. Supp. 1217, affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Sarah Weddington reargued the cause for appellants. With her on the briefs

were Roy Lucas, Fred Bruner, Roy L. Merrill, Jr., and Norman Dorsen.

Robert C. Flowers, Assistant Attorney General of Texas, argued the cause

for appellee on the reargument. Jay Floyd, Assistant Attorney General,

argued the cause for appellee on the original argument. With them on the

brief were Crawford C. Martin, Attorney General, Nola White, First

Assistant Attorney General, Alfred Walker, Executive Assistant Attorney

General, Henry Wade, and John B. Tolle.*

[Blackmun, J. -- Opinion of the Court]

[Stewart, J. -- Concurring opinion]

[Rehnquist, J. -- Dissenting opinion]


* Briefs of amici curiae were filed by Gary K. Nelson, Attorney General of

Arizona, Robert K. Killian, Attorney General of Connecticut, Ed W. Hancock,

Attorney General of Kentucky, Clarence A. H. Meyer, Attorney General of

Nebraska, and Vernon B. Romney, Attorney General of Utah; by Joseph P.

Witherspoon, Jr., for thc Association of Texas Diocesan Attorneys; by

Charles E. Rice for Americans United for Life; by Eugene J. McMahon for

Women for the Unborn et al.; by Carol Ryan for the American College of

Obstetricians and Gynecologists et al.; by Dennis J. Horan, Jerome A.

Frazel, Jr., Thomas M. Crisham, and Dolores V. Horan for Certain

Physicians, Professors and Fellows of the American College of Obstetrics

and Gynecology; by Harriet F. Pilpel, Nancy F. Wechsler, and Frederic S.

Nathan for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., et al.; by Alan

F. Charles for the National Legal Program on Health Problems of the Poor et

al.; by Marttie L. Thompson for State Communities Aid Assn.; by Alfred L.

Scanlan, Martin J. Flynn, and Robert M. Byrn for the National Right to Life

Committee; by Helen L. Buttenwieser for the American Ethical Union et al.;

by Norma G. Zarky for the American Association of University Women et al.;

by Nancy Stearns for New Women Lawyers et al.; by the California Committee

to Legalize Abortion et al.; and by Robert E. Dunne for Robert L. Sassone.