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Reproductive Rights: U.S. Supreme Court Cases

Below is a list of U.S. Supreme Court cases involving the reproductive rights of individuals, including the right to procreate, use contraception, plan a family, rear children, and gain access to reproductive healthcare, including links to the full text of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

  • Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925) - Cited in over 100 Supreme Court cases, the Court in this case found a constitutional right of parents to send their children to private schools.
  • Skinner v. Oklahoma (1942) - This decision holds that states may not impose sterilization as a penalty for a crime to weed out "unfit" individuals from the gene pool.
  • Prince v. Massachusetts (1944) - This decision established that the government has authority to regulate the actions and treatment of children - even against parental authority - according to the best interest of the child's welfare. In this case, the Court held that a mother may be prosecuted for having her children distribute religious literature.
  • Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) - The Court in this case struck down a law that prohibited married couples from using birth control and thereby found a constitutional right of married couples to use contraceptives. Read a detailed discussion of Griswold v. Connecticut.
  • Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) - This decision established that unmarried people have the same contraception rights as married couples and may thereby engage in non-procreative sexual intercourse on the same basis.
  • Roe v. Wade (1973) - In this landmark case, the Court held that women have a constitutional right to terminate their pregnancies up to 12-weeks through abortion. After the 12-week mark, however, the Court found that states have a greater interest in regulating a woman's right to privacy in this area. Read a detailed discussion of Roe v. Wade.
  • Carey v. Population Services International (1977) - The Court expanded constitutional protections in the area of birth control by allowing makers of contraceptives more freedom to distribute and sell their products to teens. Prior to this decision, only licensed doctors and pharmacists could distribute birth control to minors.
  • Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) - Reaffirming the essential holding in Roe v. Wade, the Court in this case held that states may regulate other aspects of abortion, such as imposing a waiting period to obtain an abortion or requiring that abortion providers explain the risks of abortion.
  • Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood (2006) - The Court refused to strike down parental notification law on its face where only a few applications of the law present a constitutional problem.
  • Gonzales v. Carhard (2007) - In a 5-4 decision, the Court upheld the federal ban on so-called "partial-birth" abortions.
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