Facts: Five provisions of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act were being challenged as being unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, which had recognized the right to have an abortion as a liberty protected under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. 1) The "informed consent" rule, which required doctors to provide women with information about the health risks and possible complications of having an abortion before one could be performed. 2) The "spousal notification" rule, which required women to give prior notice to their husbands. 3) The "parental consent" rule, which required minors to receive consent from a parent or guardian prior to an abortion. 4) The imposition of a 24-hour waiting period before obtaining an abortion. 5) The imposition of certain reporting requirements on facilities providing abortion services.
Holding: A Plurality of Justices O'Connor, Kennedy, and Souter delivered the opinion of the Court. They asserted that the right to an abortion is grounded in the Due Process Clause, and further reiterated Eisenstadt v. Baird, saying that the major notion behind the right to privacy is the right of the individual to be free from unwanted intrusion on the part of the government into one's personal life. Medical advancements at the point of the decision also spurred the plurality to overturn the strict trimester formula that was imposed in Roe v. Wade. The plurality redefined viability as the point at which the state's interest in the life of the unborn child outweighs the mother's right to abort. Ultimately, the plurality struck down Provision 2, regarding the requirement of spousal notification, on the grounds that it gave too much power to husbands over their wives and would worsen situations of spousal abuse. Provisions 1, 3, and 4, were upheld on the basis that none of them created an undue burden on the part of the woman seeking an abortion. (A legal provision creating an undue burden was defined having "the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus")
Justices White, Blackmun, Stevens, Scalia, and Thomas each joined opinions in which they partially concurred and partially dissented from the plurality opinion. Rehnquist and Scalia each concurred with the plurality in upholding the parental consent law, contending that Roe was incorrectly decided.
Rehnquist and Scalia each joined the plurality in upholding the parental consent, informed consent, and 24-hour waiting period laws. They dissented from the plurality's decision to uphold Roe v. Wade and strike down the spousal notification law. They did so on the basis that Roewas incorrectly decided. Rehnquist and Scalia joined each other's concurrence/dissents. Thomas and White, who did not write their own opinions, joined in both.
Blackmun and Stevens wrote opinions in which they approved of the plurality's preservation of Roeand rejection of the spousal notification law. They did not, however, agree with the plurality's decision to the other three laws at issue. Blackmun went further, sharply attacking and criticizing the Court's anti-Roe contingent of the Court.