Mazurek v. Armstrong

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Court Documents

Supreme Court of the United States

520 U.S. 968

Mazurek, Attorney General of Montana  v.  Armstrong et al.

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

No. 96-1104 

Respondents, licensed physicians and a physician assistant practicing in Montana, challenged a state law restricting the performance of abortions to licensed physicians. In denying their motion for preliminary injunction, the Federal District Court found that they had not established any likelihood of prevailing on their claim that the law imposed an undue burden under Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833. The Ninth Circuit vacated the judgment, holding that respondents had met the Circuit's threshold requirement for a preliminary injunction by showing a fair chance of success on the merits. On remand, the District Court entered an injunction pending appeal and postponed hearing the merits of the preliminary injunction motion pending the disposition of petitioner's certiorari petition. As a consequence, the physician-only requirement is unenforceable at the present time against the only nonphysician licensed to perform abortions in Montana.

Held: The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed. Since the physician-only requirement at issue in Casey did not pose a "substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion," it was not an undue burden on the right to abortion. 505 U.S., at 884–885. This precise passage was quoted by the District Court when it concluded that there was insufficient evidence to find a substantial obstacle in Montana. The Ninth Circuit never contested that conclusion, finding instead that the law's purpose made it arguably invalid. However, there is no evidence of a vitiating legislative purpose here. The Court of Appeals' decision is also contradicted by this Court's repeated statements that the performance of abortions may be restricted to physicians. See, e.g., Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 165. Since the Ninth Circuit's decision is clearly erroneous under this Court's precedents, and since its judgment has produced immediate consequences for Montana—in the form of an injunction against the law's implementation—and has raised a real threat of such consequences for the six other States in the Circuit that have physician-only requirements, summary reversal is appropriate.

Certiorari granted; 94 F.3d 566, reversed and remanded.