Colautti v. Franklin
Argued October 3, 1978
Decided January 9, 1979
Full case nameColautti, Secretary of Welfare of Pennsylvania, et al. v. Franklin, et al.
Citations439 U.S. 379 (more)
99 S. Ct. 675; 58 L. Ed. 2d 596
A viability-determination section of a Pennsylvania abortion statute is void for vagueness
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan Jr. · Potter Stewart
Byron White · Thurgood Marshall
Harry Blackmun · Lewis F. Powell Jr.
William Rehnquist · John P. Stevens
Case opinions
MajorityBlackmun, joined by Brennan, Stewart, Marshall, Powell, Stevens
DissentWhite, joined by Burger, Rehnquist

Colautti v. Franklin, 439 U.S. 379 (1979), was a United States Supreme Court abortion rights case, which held void for vagueness part of Pennsylvania's 1974 Abortion Control Act. The section in question was the following:

(a) Every person who performs or induces an abortion shall prior thereto have made a determination based on his experience, judgment or professional competence that the fetus is not viable, and if the determination is that the fetus is viable or if there is sufficient reason to believe that the fetus may be viable, shall exercise that degree of professional skill, care and diligence to preserve the life and health of the fetus which such person would be required to exercise in order to preserve the life and health of any fetus intended to be born and not aborted and the abortion technique employed shall be that which would provide the best opportunity for the fetus to be aborted alive so long as a different technique would not be necessary in order to preserve the life or health of the mother.

Doctors who failed to adhere to the provisions of this section were liable to civil and criminal prosecution "as would pertain to him had the fetus been a child who was intended to be born and not aborted." Franklin and others sued, arguing that the provision was both vague and overbroad. In a 6–3 decision written by Roe author Harry Blackmun, the Supreme Court agreed, finding that requiring a determination "if... the fetus is viable or if there is sufficient reason to believe the fetus may be viable" was insufficient and impermissibly vague guidance for physicians who might face criminal liability if a jury disagrees with their judgment.

See also