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The pre-Roe statute prohibited performance of an abortion on a pregnant woman unless the procedure was “necessary to preserve her life or health and done for that purpose.”1  The statute, which has not been repealed,2 has not been declared unconstitutional nor has its enforcement been enjoined.  Because the scope of the health exception is not defined, the statute may not effectively prohibit many abortions, even if Roe v. Wade were overruled.3       


1 Ala. Code tit. 14, § 9 (1958).

2 See Ala. Code § 13A-13-7 (1994).

3 If Roe were overruled, an argument probably would be made that the undefined health exception should be given an open-ended interpretation.  Such an argument could be based upon the broad interpretation the Supreme Court gave to the undefined health exception in the District of Columbia statute in United States v. Vuitch, 402 U.S. 62, 72 (1971) (“the general usage and modern understanding of the word ‘health’ . . . includes psychological as well as physical well-being”).  In Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973), the companion case to Roe v. Wade, the Court, relying on Vuitch, held that in determining whether an abortion is medically necessary, “all factors–physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age–relevant to the well-being of the patient” may be considered.  Id. at 192.


© 2005 Life Legal Defense Fund. All rights reserved.
May be reprinted without permission but with attribution to the Life Legal Defense Fund.