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Class Action Against the Enforcement of Texas Abortion Case Study

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Updated: May 4th, 2022

Facts

This is a class action against the enforcement of Texas abortion laws based on their unconstitutionality. The specific grounds of inconsistency are that the laws seek to prohibit an attempt to obtain or the actual procurement of an abortion regardless of the circumstances with the exception of the special circumstance of saving the mother’s life. Enjoined to the suit was a doctor who was charged with violation of the said state abortion laws and was facing prosecution by the state through the district attorney.

Also included among the plaintiffs was a couple who were married but had no children and they sought an injunction against the enforcement of these laws basing their argument on the unconstitutionality of these laws. On trial, the district court was of the opinion that the pregnant woman and the doctor had legal basis to sue and that they had a justiciable cause and therefore were entitled to a declaratory relief. The three-judge bench however found that the claim by the unmarried couple had no legal grounds therefore their prayers for an injunction was denied.

The matter came up for hearing and trial in the district court. The trial court interrogated the various perspectives and legal opinions propounded by the district attorney and found the laws to be vague and therefore void. They did not reflect the spirit and intention of the ninth and fourteenth amendment and therefore, rendered unenforceable. The married couple on the other hand lost on grounds that the injunctive relief sought against the enforcement of the abortion laws was unwarranted.

The district attorney has since appealed the ruling made in favor of the two plaintiffs while the married couple has also appealed on the ruling against them. The case is due for appeal in the supreme court of the United States

Issues

Does the provision prohibiting the procurement of an abortion under the abortion laws of Texas contravene the United States constitution?

Is abortion a right within the construction and interpretation of the right to privacy under the constitution?

Does the right to privacy a limits a states capacity to regulate abortion?

Does the fact that the plaintiff’s pregnancy had terminated naturally before the Supreme Court hearing vitiate the validity of her suit?

Is it justifiable to deny the injunctive relief?

Rule

The constitution does not expressly outline the individual’s right to personal privacy (Dershowitz 2001). However, the guarantee of certain regards of privacy exists within the provisions of the constitution as under first amendment as was the court’s decision in Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557, 564, 89 S.Ct. 1243, 1247, 22 L.Ed.2d 542 (1969), in the fifth and fourth amendment’s in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 8-9, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 1872-1873, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968), the ninth amendment, the bill of rights and the fourteenth amendment. The fourteenth amendment under the precincts of personal liberty and state limits to legal action as well as the construction under the provision under the ninth amendment. These are analyzed by the court in Griswold v. Connecticut 381 U.S. 479 (1965). It goes to encompass the choice of a woman on whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. Principally therefore any law withholding this decision goes against the spirit and intent of the constitutional provision and is therefore null and void. The constitutional provision on due process in its construction of the right to privacy acts to safeguard the right to privacy in the strictures of the right to a woman to terminate her pregnancy without prosecution by the state.

The federal mandate of the constitution allows states to employ abortion laws in a manner that protects the health and well-being of the pregnant woman and with due regard the potentiality of the life of the unborn child in the various stages of pregnancy. As such a woman’s right to an abortion as provided under the constitution is not absolute as was cited in the case of Doe V. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973). This leeway cannot however be used as grounds to entirely withhold the woman’s right to terminate the pregnancy

The rules of procedure on appeal do not render the suit moot in the circumstances of this case even after the plaintiff’s pregnancy terminated before the hearing of the case by the Supreme Court. This is because the termination does not defeat the justiciable cause on which the appeal was based and neither does it affect the remedies due and sought by the appellants (Harr, Hess & Orthmann 2008).

Analysis

The trial court ruled in favor of unconstitutionality of the abortion laws. The court’s decision explains that it falls within the judgment of the pregnant woman’s doctor within the first trisemester of the pregnancy. During the second trisemester, the greatest concern of the state is the health of the mother. Implicitly, a State may effect regulation concerning the abortion procedures that can be performed on the mother. In the final trisemester, it is apparent that the state has an obligation to protect the potentiality of human life. Subsequently a state could enforce measures aimed at restricting or even terminating the right to undertake an abortion save for the life and health of the mother.

Undeniably Eisenstadt v. Baird 405 U.S. 438 (1972) acclaims the individual’s right to privacy and more importantly a choice as to whether they should have children or not. It is however important to maintain a balance between the right of the mother and that of the unborn child.

The decision of the court should therefore address the question as to when state interest commences in the fetus. Characteristically in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern PA. v. Casey 505 U.S. 833 (1992) the court formed the opinion that the state has an obligation to protect the unborn baby. The justiciable cause sought in this suit lies in the balance between the states interest in the unborn child and the individual’s right to privacy and choice as to whether or not they will bear children.

Conclusion

The initial balance of right stands in favor of the mother’s right to privacy. This is only in the early stages of the pregnancy. As the pregnancy advances however, the balance tips in favor of the State’s duty to safeguard the potentiality of life in the unborn child as under the constitution.

The declaratory and injunctive reliefs sought by the appellants are necessarily similar due to the relationship between the consequences of a declaratory award for the constitutionality of the abortion laws. The remedy sought by the unmarried couple in the form of injunctive relief by its own merit is based on speculative contingencies and as such, it is based on conditionality as opposed to actual case controversy defeating its practicality and justiciable cause test.

References

Dershowitz, A. (2001). Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000, London: Oxford Press

Harr, J., Hess, M. and Orthmann, M. (2008). Constitutional Law and the Criminal Justice System, Stamford: Cengage Learning.

List of cases

Doe V. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973).

Eisenstadt v. Baird (405 U.S. 438 (1972).

Griswold v. Connecticut (381 U.S. 479 (1965)).

Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113, 125 (1973).

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern PA. v. Casey (505 U.S. 833 (1992).

Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557, 564, 89 S.Ct. 1243, 1247, 22 L.Ed.2d 542 (1969).

Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 8-9, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 1872-1873, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968).

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