Summary of Stenberg v. Carhart
Facts: A Nebraska statute prohibits partial birth abortion, but defined it in such a way that encompassed both the D&X procedure (partial birth abortion) and the more commonly used D&E (used during the second trimester, pre-viability).
Holding: The statute is unconstitutional because:
it lacks any exception “for the preservation of the health of the mother"
- D argues that the ban on D&X abortion would create no risk to the health of the woman (because there are other, safer, alternatives), so there’s no need for the health exception.
- Court finds that since in some cases the D&X abortion would be safer than the D&E abortion, there needs to be a health exception.
it imposes an undue burden on the woman’s ability to chose a D&E abortion
- thinking again about the definition of undue burden
- even though the statute’s main aim is banning D&X, its language is so broad that it encompasses D&E too.
- If the statute specifically said it only banned D&X abortions, then it would probably be constitutional.
Rule: A state may not completely proscribe partial-birth abortions because they are the most commonly used methods for pre-viability, second-trimester abortions. But, a state may ban one type of partial birth abortion if there is another adequate, safe form of abortion available. (But, if they ban any type of abortion, there must be a health exception.)