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The House of Atreus

Supreme Court Center

 

 

I.                   INTRODUCTION

II.                SIGNIFICANT CASES CONCERNING THE RIGHT TO LIFE

 

I.         INTRODUCTION

I.                        

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided numerous questions concerning issues related to the right to life.  Among its best known—and most controversial—are its decisions concerning abortion.  However, the Court has also issued opinions relating to the death penalty, end-of-life issues, and eugenics.

 

These issues ordinarily come before the Court on appeal from either a state court or one of the Federal courts of appeals.  While state supreme courts have the final word on questions of state law, the U.S. Supreme Court has the final word on questions of Federal law (in other words, questions concerning the application of the U.S. Constitution, Federal statutes, and Federal regulations).  Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court may entertain appeals from persons unhappy with how a Federal or state court has decided a question of federal law (for instance, a person arguing that a state deprived him of rights that he is guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution).  Furthermore, since the Constitution provides that the Federal law is the supreme law of the land, the Supreme Court can also entertain appeals which argue that state law conflicts with Federal law.

 

Ordinarily, one has no right to appeal to the Supreme Court.  One can only file a petition—called a “petition for certiorari”—requesting that the Court hear the appeal.  But the Court has virtually unlimited discretion in deciding whether to hear the case.  Thus, the Court may deny an appeal on important issues for any reason or for no reason at all.

 

When they do hear a case, all nine justices on the Court may not agree on the proper way to decide it.  In such instances, the outcome of the case depends on how the majority of Justices sitting on the case decide each issue. 

 

The Justices explains their rationale for their decisions in written “opinions.”  When the Justices disagree on the proper resolution of an appeal, the “majority” opinion lays out the rationale for the majority of the Justices.  Judges who agree with the result but have a different rationale for their conclusion file “concurring” opinions, while those who disagree with the result file “dissenting” opinions. 

 

Links to the Court’s most significant decisions related to the right to life appear below.  For up to the minute coverage of the Court, you can check Supreme Court News and the U.S. Supreme Court Official Site.  For those interested in background information about pending or recent cases, the Court’s

docket, calendar, and briefs filed by the parties are also available.

 

II.        SIGNIFICANT CASES CONCERNING THE RIGHT TO LIFE

Abortion

Abortion protesting/free speech

Eugenics

Assisted suicide/euthanasia

Right to refuse treatment/nutrition/hydration

Death penalty

ABORTION

 

 

ROE v. WADE, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)

DOE v. BOLTON, 410 U.S. 179 (1973)

PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF MISSOURI v. DANFORTH, 428 U.S. 52 (1976)

MAHER v. ROE, 432 U.S. 464 (1977)

BELLOTTI v. BAIRD, 443 U.S. 622 (1979)

COLAUTTI v. FRANKLIN, 439 U.S. 379 (1979)

HARRIS v. McRAE, 448 U.S. 297 (1980)

H. L. v. MATHESON, 450 U.S. 398 (1981)

AKRON v. AKRON CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH, 462 U.S. 416 (1983)

PLANNED PARENTHOOD ASSN. v. ASHCROFT, 462 U.S. 476 (1983)

SIMOPOULOS v. VIRGINIA, 462 U.S. 506 (1983)

THORNBURGH v. AMERICAN COLL. OF OBST. & GYN., 476 U.S. 747 (1986)

WEBSTER v. REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SERVICES, 492 U.S. 490 (1989)

HODGSON v. MINNESOTA, 497 U.S. 417 (1990)

PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF SOUTHEASTERN PA. v. CASEY, 505 U.S. 833 (1992)  

STENBERG v. CARHART, ___ U.S. ___ (2000)

 

 

 

ABORTION PROTESTING/FREE SPEECH

 

MADSEN v. WOMEN'S HEALTH CENTER, Inc., 512 U.S. 753 (1994)85 (1994)

SCHENCK ET AL. v. PRO CHOICE NETWORK OF WESTERN NEW YORK ET AL. , 519 U. S. 357 (1997)

HILL v. COLORADO, ___ U.S. ___ (2000)

 

 

EUGENICS

 

BUCK v. BELL, 274 U.S. 200 (1927)

 


ASSISTED SUICIDE/EUTHANASIA

 

VACCO v. QUILL, ___ U.S. ___ (1997)

WASHINGTON v. GLUCKSBERG, ___ U.S. ___ (1997)

 

 

RIGHT TO REFUSE TREATMENT/NUTRITION-HYDRATION

 

 

 

CRUZAN v. DIRECTOR, MDH, 497 U.S. 261 (1990)

 


 DEATH PENALTY

 

PALKO v. CONNECTICUT, 302 U.S. 319 (1937)

LOUISIANA EX REL. FRANCIS v. RESWEBER, 329 U.S. 459 (1947)

UNITED STATES v. JACKSON, 390 U.S. 570 (1968)

WITHERSPOON v. ILLINOIS, 391 U.S. 510 (1968)

BUMPER v. NORTH CAROLINA, 391 U.S. 543 (1968)

MCGAUTHA v. GEORGIA, 402 U.S. 183 (1971)

FURMAN v. GEORGIA, 408 U.S. 238 (1972)

GREGG v. GEORGIA, 428 U.S. 153 (1976)

PROFFITT v. FLORIDA, 428 U.S. 242 (1976)

JUREK v. TEXAS, 428 U.S. 262 (1976)

WOODSON v. NORTH CAROLINA, 428 U.S. 280 (1976)

COKER v. VIRGINIA, 433 U.S. 584 (1977)

LOCKETT v. OHIO, 438 U.S. 586 (1978)

BELL v. OHIO, 438 U.S. 637 (1978)

EDDINGS v. OKLAHOMA, 455 U.S. 104 (1982)

ENMUND v. FLORIDA, 458 U.S. 782 (1982)

PULLEY v. HARRIS, 465 U.S. 37 (1984)

LOCKHART v. McCREE, 476 U.S. 162 (1986)

FORD v. WAINWRIGHT, 477 U.S. 399 (1986)

McCLESKEY v. KEMP, 481 U.S. 279 (1987)

ATKINS v. VIRGINIA, 536 U.S. 304 (2002)

RING v. ARIZONA, 536 U.S. 534 (2002)

DECK v. MISSOURI, ___ U.S. ___ (2005) (No. 04-5293)

BELL v. THOMPSON, ___ U.S. ___ (2005) (No. 04-514)

ROPER v. SIMMONS, ___ U.S. ___ (2005) (No. 03-633)

MILLER-EL v. DRETKE, ____ U.S. ___ (2005) (No. 03-9659)

SATTAZAHN v. PA, 537 U.S. 101 (2003)

 

 

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