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COURT CASES/Stenberg v. Carhart (Carhart I)

In June of 2000, the United States Supreme Court struck down Nebraska's abortion ban in Stenberg v. Carhart (Carhart I). Although Nebraska's law was the first to reach the Supreme Court, similar laws had been passed in 30 states. The United States Congress also had passed federal abortion bans which were vetoed by President Clinton in 1996 and 1997. Attorneys attacking the constitutionality of law in the Nebraska case presented three arguments to the court:

  • These bans are deceptive measures designed to outlaw virtually every type of abortion procedure.
  • These laws are unconstitutional because they have no exceptions for women's health, and they criminalize doctors for providing the safest medical care.
  • These laws are unconstitutional because they unduly burden a women's right to choose, thus violating standards set in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.


Justice Breyer wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision. He stated that restrictions on abortions before viability that lack protections for women's health violate Roe v. Wade and other Supreme Court precedent. The Court ruled that the bans were unconstitutionally broad and vague, and unduly burdened a woman's right to choose abortion. This case confirmed that Roe and Casey guaranteed a woman's right to choose the safest abortion method for her. However, four strong dissents were filed by the minority, demonstrating that a woman's reproductive rights lie in the precarious balance of the United States Supreme Court.

Amicus Brief

The National Abortion Federation, with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA), Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH), and the American Nurses Association (ANA), submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court that outlined the reasons why the medical community so strongly opposed these bills. This brief was cited in oral arguments and in the majority opinion.

Full text of this decision

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