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Why the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is momentous news. Why it is bigger news than if Rehnquist had retired. The right to choose:

JUSTICE O'CONNOR, JUSTICE KENNEDY, and JUSTICE SOUTER delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III, concluding that consideration of the fundamental constitutional question resolved by Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 , principles of institutional integrity, and the rule of stare decisis require that Roe's essential holding be retained [505 U.S. 833, 834]    and reaffirmed as to each of its three parts: (1) a recognition of a woman's right to choose to have an abortion before fetal viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State, whose pre-viability interests are not strong enough to support an abortion prohibition or the imposition of substantial obstacles to the woman's effective right to elect the procedure; (2) a confirmation of the State's power to restrict abortions after viability, if the law contains exceptions for pregnancies endangering a woman's life or health; and (3) the principle that the State has legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus that may become a child. Pp. 844-869.

. . . THE CHIEF JUSTICE, joined by JUSTICE WHITE, JUSTICE SCALIA, and JUSTICE THOMAS, concluded that:

      1. Although Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 , is not directly implicated by the Pennsylvania statute, which simply regulates, and does not prohibit, abortion, a reexamination of the "fundamental right" Roe accorded to a woman's decision to abort a fetus, with the concomitant requirement that any state regulation of abortion survive "strict scrutiny," id., at 154-156, is warranted by the confusing and uncertain state of this Court's post-Roe decisional law.

From the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. 5-4. O'Connor in the majority upholding Roe. That's why this is hugely important.

That's why the Supreme Court of the United States is Extraordinary.

Update [2005-7-1 12:1:55 by Armando]: This is perhaps the MOST IMPORTANT reason why the SCOTUS is extraordinary. But there are many others. Affirmative action. Church-state separation. Environmental laws. We'll be exploring those as well.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 08:52 AM PDT.

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