The Law School Authority

Stenberg v. Carhart Case Brief

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:

    1. it lacks any exception “for the preservation of the health of the mother”
      1. 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.
      2. 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. 
    2. it imposes an undue burden on the woman’s ability to chose a D&E abortion
      1. thinking again about the definition of undue burden
      2. even though the statute’s main aim is banning D&X, its language is so broad that it encompasses D&E too.
      3. 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.)


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