One of the long-time commentators for Minnesota Women’s Press in its earlier years was Judy Corrao (who died in September 2020 at age 78). This is part of a commentary she published in our pages (when it was a biweekly newspaper), after the Supreme Court made an important decision regarding abortion rights in 1992.
“An entire generation has come of age free to assume Roe’s concept of liberty in defining the capacity of women to act in a society and to make reproductive decisions.” — Associate Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, in the Planned Parenthood v Casey ruling, which upheld most of Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act
On June 29 , by a 5-4 ruling, the narrowest of margins, the U.S. Supreme Court redefined and limited Roe v Wade, while it reaffirmed what it called the “essence” of a woman’s right to an abortion.’ Justice Harry Blackmun warned that Roe v Wade was only one vote away from being completely overruled. “I am 83 years old, and I cannot remain on this court forever.” He warned that when he leaves, a fierce battle will occur over the nomination of his successor.
In the Pennsylvania ruling, Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia, Byron White, and Clarence Thomas said that the court should have overturned Roe v Wade.
Justices O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter joined Justice Blackmun, Roe’s author, and Justice John Paul Stevens in rejecting the harsh demands of the four justices who wanted to overturn Roe. Amazingly, these three moderate justices who do not support Roe said they believe that overturning Roe for no greater reasons than a change in the court membership and political games would damage the Supreme Court’s reputation.
In the Planned Parethood v Casey decision, a new standard questions whether a state’s abortion regulation has the purpose or effect of imposing an “undue burden.” The court defined an “undue burden” as a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.
The court let stand four of [five of] the Pennsylvania law’s sections, which they said did not impose an undue burden:
The political impact of this abortion decision is serious, and there will be long battles over abortion. The Supreme Court’s new “undue burden” standard will send anti-abortion legislators scrambling to develop creative new restrictions. There will be an incredible move by states to regulate abortion. Courts will be clogged with litigation over state legislatures’ blocks to abortion.
The Right to Life organizations will work in each state to further restrict abortions and with the presidential candidates to get them to agree to appoint anti-choice federal judges and Supreme Court justices.
Legislative races this year in Minnesota and the nation may be the most important in decades for the choice issue.
“Until the day that women control without any doubt their own reproductive destinies, they are only part of the continuing plantation system and mentality,” said Jeri Rasmussen, executive director of Midwest Health Center for Women. “Regardless of any decision the court will ever make, women will continue to make their own decisions. The only decision the court or legislatures make is where and under what conditions an abortion takes place. We are at the crossroads where the Supreme Court has placed in motion the concept of a fundamental right determined by geography — in other words, free states and slave states. Our weapons will be our moral rightness and the ballot.”