Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists

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Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued November 5, 1985
Decided June 11, 1986
Full case nameThornburgh, Governor of Pennsylvania, et al. v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, et al.
Citations476 U.S. 747 (more)
106 S. Ct. 2169; 90 L. Ed. 2d 779; 54 U.S.L.W. 4618; 1986 U.S. LEXIS 54
Prior history737 F.2d 283 (3d Cir. 1984 (affirmed)
Provisions of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of 1982 that "wholly subordinate constitutional privacy interests and concerns with maternal health to the effort to deter a woman from making a decision that, with her physician, is hers to make" were unconstitutional.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan Jr. · Byron White
Thurgood Marshall · Harry Blackmun
Lewis F. Powell Jr. · William Rehnquist
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Case opinions
MajorityBlackmun, joined by Brennan, Marshall, Powell, Stevens
DissentWhite, joined by Rehnquist
DissentO'Connor, joined by Rehnquist
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XIV
Overruled by
Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992)

Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 476 U.S. 747 (1986),[1] was a United States Supreme Court case involving a challenge to Pennsylvania's Abortion Control Act of 1982.[2]


The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists sought an injunction to all enforcement of the Pennsylvania law. Although the law in question was similar to the one in City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, the Reagan administration in Thornburgh asked the justices to overrule Roe v. Wade, which Chief Justice Burger had now decided to abandon.[2]


Harry Blackmun's opinion for the Court rejected the Reagan Administration's position, reaffirming Roe.

Sandra Day O'Connor distanced herself from the court in dissent, "disput[ing] not only the wisdom but also the legitimacy of the Court's attempt to discredit and pre-empt state abortion regulation regardless of the interests it serves and the impact it has."[1] The 7-2 majority of Roe had now shrunk to 6-3.


Blackmun's opinion in Thornburgh emphasized women's rights, rather than the rights of physicians, the emphasis of his opinion in Roe: "Few decisions are more personal and intimate, more properly private, or more basic to individual dignity and autonomy, than a woman's decision - with the guidance of her physician and within the limits specified in Roe - whether to end her pregnancy. A woman's right to make that choice freely is fundamental."[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, 476 U.S. 747 (1986).
  2. ^ a b Greenhouse, Linda. Becoming Justice Blackmun. Times Books. 2005. Page 183.

External links[edit]