Stenberg v. Carhart

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  • Reproductive Rights
  • Authored Amicus Brief
2000

Determined the constitutionality of a Nebraska statute that criminalized the performance of a wide range of abortion procedures, including the so-called "partial birth abortions."

Dr. Leroy Carhart is a Nebraska physician who performs a variety first and second trimester abortions, including those banned by the statute. He brought this suit challenging the statute’s constitutionality and seeking an injunction forbidding its enforcement. Both the district court and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the statute as unconstitutional. Don Stenberg, Nebraska’s Attorney General, petitioned for and was granted certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court.  

On June 28, 2000, a divided Court ruled 5-4 that the Nebraska statute was unconstitutional. Affirming its earlier decisions in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), the Court, in an opinion written by Justice Breyer, found that the statute violated women’s constitutional right to choose whether to have an abortion. Among other things, the Court concluded that the statute was constitutionally flawed because it does not provide a health exception and imposes an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to choose. Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy dissented. Legal Momentum with co-counsel, the Women’s Law Project, filed an amicus brief on behalf of 75 women’s and civil rights organizations in support of Dr. Carhart.