Supreme Court

In many respects, the justice behind the Supreme Court decisions is nearly as important as the decisions themselves. It is said that no one knows how a justice will act once joining this illustrious 12-panel legislative body, and that has been true time and time again. When Justice Stevens, who just announced his retirement after 34 years, was first nominated, the liberals were concerned about his previous conservative decisions. In fact, Stevens not only became a centrist, but someone who carefully reviewed both sides of an issue before making his final decision. As the New York Times (2010) said, Justice Stevens "may be the last justice from a time when ability and independence, rather than perceived ideology, were viewed as the crucial qualifications for a seat on the court." Stevens authored over 400 majority opinions on nearly every issue thinkable, such as immigration, abortion, death penalty, school prayer, campaign finance, and term limits. One of the most noteworthy decisions, which continued the impact of an earlier decision, was his distinct ruling and arbitration actions in the review of Roe v Wade in 1992 with Planned Parenthood V Casey.

In the original highly controversial Roe v Wade, by a vote of 7 to 2, the Supreme Court overturned a Texas law prohibiting abortions not necessary to save the woman's life and decided that "any governmental interference with [a woman's] right is subject to strict judicial scrutiny." It also recognized a state's right to "regulate the abortion procedure after the first trimester of pregnancy in ways necessary to promote women's health" and stated that "after the point of fetal viability -- approximately 24 to 28 weeks -- a state may, to protect the potential life of the fetus, prohibit abortions not necessary to preserve the woman's life or health" (As cited in Stanton, 2005).

Despite the ruling, abortion has continued to be a very emotional topic in American politics. During the decade after the Court's decisions, Roe v. Wade was regularly upheld except for using public funding for the abortion. However, in the 1990s, as the country and Court became more conservative, the rulings started shifting. In Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey in 1992, by a 5 to4 ruling the Court once again affirmed "the essential holding" of Roe v. Wade, but upheld a provision of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act that required "physicians to provide patients with anti-abortion information to discourage women from obtaining abortions." More critically, the four opposing views came from Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, and White, who voted to "uphold the challenged (state) provisions and overturn Roe completely, stating that it was wrongly decided and the Constitution does not protect the right to choose." Only Blackman and Stevens voted to continue to "protect the right to choose as a fundamental right under Roe by subjecting state restrictions to strict scrutiny"

Across the country, momentum was building to reverse the original Roe v Wade. For example, a summary paper produced by NARAL-Pro-Choice America, "Roe v. Wade and the Right to Choose," stated that since the Supreme Court's 2002 ruling in Steinberg v. Carhart against Nebraska's ban on safe, common abortion procedures, legislators in that and other states have been "steadily passing legislation as groundwork for a Supreme Court case that could reverse Roe v. Wade; since 1995, states have enacted 383 anti-choice measures" (as cited in Stanton,…