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Hodgson v. Minnesota

Judicial Background

The landmark case of Roe v. Wade (1973), in which the petitioner successfully challenged a Texas law prohibiting abortions except to save the woman's life, established the benchmark for all future abortion decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in that decision, held that the right to privacy extends to the decision of a woman, in consultation with her physician, to terminate her pregnancy. By the time Hodgson v. Minnesota was decided in 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled on abortion rights cases for almost 17 years. For most of that time, attempts by states to place restrictions on the availability of abortions were ruled unconstitutional. However, changes in the makeup and temperament of the Court during the 1980s served to arrest this trend. As a result, observers watched the Hodgson decision closely for indications of which way the Court would proceed in the future.

The case revolved around two key issues: the right of a minor to terminate a pregnancy without notifying her parents, and the ability of a state to impose a waiting period on those seeking an abortion. The Supreme Court had dealt with both those issues before. In Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth (1976), the Court had held that parental and spousal consent requirements were unconstitutional because they delegate to third parties an absolute veto power that the state does not itself possess. In Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health (1983) the Court had held that an Ohio law requiring a woman to wait 24 hours between consenting to and receiving an abortion was unconstitutional. However, the Court soon took a dramatic turn toward the restriction of abortion rights. In Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989), the Court upheld a Missouri law forbidding the use of public facilities for abortions not necessary to save a woman's life. It ruled that the state may implement a policy favoring childbirth over abortion by allocation of public resources such as hospitals and medical staff. It was in this atmosphere of uncertainty over the Court's intentions that the Hodgson v. Minnesota case was heard.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Hodgson v. Minnesota - Judicial Background, The Case At Hand, The Lower Courts Rule, The Supreme Court Affirms The Court Of Appeals Decision