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The United States court system has three levels: the trial court level or district courts; the appellate courts; and the United States Supreme Court. A case is first heard in a district court and can then be appealed to an appellate court. If either party is dissatisfied with the outcome, a case can be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Individual states also have court systems which consist of a trial court, an appellate court, and a state supreme court. The Supreme Court hears appeals from state supreme courts when the matter concerns a federal law or the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has nine justices who are appointed for life, including a Chief Justice who leads the Court. Supreme Court justices are chosen by the President, and then approved by the Senate. A simple majority vote is necessary to approve a nomination to the Supreme Court.

How the Court Impacts Abortion Rights

The battle to keep abortion legal is not just about saving Roe v. Wade, but ensuring that the promise of choice in Roe will remain available and free of unnecessary barriers. The Supreme Court has allowed many restrictions on abortion including a restriction on abortion counseling in federally funded clinics as well as many other unfounded restrictions. More

Learn More About the People Who Affect Your Rights

Justice Scalia has consistently voted against the protections of Roe and has likened abortion to sodomy, polygamy, incest, and suicide. In his dissent to Planned Parenthood of Souteastern Pennsylvania v. Casey Justice Scalia wrote: "Roe was plainly wrong." Learn more about the Supreme Court Justices

Major Supreme Court Abortion Decisions

Roe v. Wade
The landmark case that legalized a woman's right to choose. More

Webster v. Reproductive Health Services
In 1989, the Supreme Court decided the validity of Missouri's restrictions on abortion. In this case, Justice O'Connor introduced her "undue burden" analysis which later became the Court's framework for deciding cases about abortion. More

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey
The decision that preserved Roe and a woman's right to choose but made it easier for states to restrict access to abortion. More

Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood (Carhart II)

On April 18, 2007, the United States Supreme Court turned back the clock on women's health and reproductive rights. In a 5-4 decision that puts politics before women's health, the Court upheld the first-ever federal ban on abortion - called by its sponsors the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. More

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glossary - Appellate Courts - Circuit courts make final decisions of law on many issues, including abortion. Learn More. Learn more

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