Webster v. Reproductive Health Services

(1989)

Webster v. Reproductive Health Services was a Missouri abortion case. After 1973, when the Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade essentially legalized abortion, Americans were sharply divided on the issue. In the years that followed, the abortion-related cases the courts heard did not necessarily bear directly on the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade. Rather, they turned on the extent to which any state can impose restrictions on abortion by, for example, specifying at what stage in the life of an unborn fetus abortions might be obtained or whether government funds or facilities could be used to perform abortions.


Webster v. Reproductive Health Services was just such a case. It arose from a Missouri law, referred to in the document as “§ 188.029,” that imposed a number of restrictions on abortion in that state. Specifically, a preamble to the law stated that “unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and wellbeing.” The law required Missouri to extend...

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Chief Justice William Rehnquist (Library of Congress)

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