Skip to Main Content

Reproductive History in the Manuscript Reading Room


The following collections in the custody of the Manuscript Division include journalistic materials pertaining to reproductive health and the law, including collections held by Supreme Court justices.

Major Cases

Listed below are major Supreme Court cases related to reproductive health; this list is not comprehensive. All Supreme Court case summaries below are brief. For a complete case summary, patrons can access the Congressional Quarterly Press Supreme Court Collection.

Buck v. Bell (1927)

Buck v. Bell established that involuntary sterilization of "feeble-minded" people did not violate the Constitution.1

Skinner v. Oklahoma (1942)

Skinner v. Oklahoma established that the Oklahoma Criminal Sterilization Act violated the Constitution under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as it only applied to those convicted of certain crimes; the case established that legislation about compulsory sterilization was subject to strict scrutiny.2

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

Griswold v. Connecticut was a landmark case that established married couples could use contraception due to their constitutional right to privacy.3

United States v. Vuitch (1971)

In Washington, D.C., abortions were banned unless necessary to protect a mother's health. United States v. Vuitch determined that "health" could include one's psychological well-being, and therefore the D.C. law was not unconstitutionally vague.4

Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972)

Eisenstadt v. Baird established that withholding contraception from unmarried individuals violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; there was no rational basis for banning contraceptives by marital status.5

Roe v. Wade (1973)

Roe v. Wade established the right to have an abortion because of the constitutional right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.6

Doe v. Bolton (1973)

Doe v. Bolton established that a Georgia law, which only allowed abortion when medically necessary or when the pregnancy was due to rape, was unconstitutionally restrictive.7

Bellotti v. Baird (1979)

Bellotti v. Baird determined that a Massachusetts law, which required that minors obtain parental permission before receiving an abortion, was unconstitutional.8

Harris v. McRae (1980)

Harris v. McRae upheld the Hyde Amendment, which restricted federal funding through Medicaid for medically necessary abortions.9

City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health (1983)

City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health determined many restrictions on abortion violated the Constitution; such restrictions included mandatory waiting periods, mandatory parental consent for minors seeking abortions, and rules surrounding the disposal of fetal remains.10

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992)

Planned Parenthood v. Casey determined that state legislation could not place an undue burden on women seeking abortion.11

Gonzales v. Carhart (2007)

Gonzales v. Carhart upheld a federal ban on partial birth abortions.12

Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (2022)

Dobbs v. Jackson overturned Roe v. Wade and established that abortion is not a constitutional right, which leaves abortion legislation to individual states.13

The following resources were consulted in compiling the major Supreme Court case list above.

American Civil Liberties Union. “Timeline of Important Reproductive Freedom Cases Decided by the Supreme Court.” Created December 1, 2003. Accessed July 11, 2023.

Brennan Center for Justice. "Roe v. Wade and Supreme Court Abortion Cases." Published September 28, 2022. Accessed July 11, 2023.

Relevant Collections

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.

Subscription Databases

The subscription resources marked with a padlock (available on-site) are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.


  1. Paul Finkelman & Melvin I. Urofsky, Buck v. Bellin Landmark Decisions of the United States Supreme Court 165 (2003),
  2. Paul Finkelman & Melvin I. Urofsky, Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamsonin Landmark Decisions of the United States Supreme Court 208 (2003),
  3. Paul Finkelman & Melvin I. Urofsky, Griswold v. Connecticut, in Landmark Decisions of the United States Supreme Court 307 (2003),
  4. U.S. v. Vuitchin Congress and the Nation, 1969-1972, at 322-0 (1973),
  5. Paul Finkelman & Melvin I. Urofsky, Eisenstadt v. Bairdin Landmark Decisions of the United States Supreme Court 365 (2003),
  6. Paul Finkelman & Melvin I. Urofsky, Roe v. Wadein Landmark Decisions of the United States Supreme Court 375 (2003),
  7. Paul Finkelman & Melvin I. Urofsky, Doe v. Boltonin Landmark Decisions of the United States Supreme Court 376 (2003),
  8. Bellotti v. Bairdin Supreme Court Collection (Web site) (2002),
  9. Paul Finkelman & Melvin I. Urofsky, Harris v. McRaein Landmark Decisions of the United States Supreme Court 459 (2003),
  10. City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health Inc., Akron Center for Reproductive Health Inc. v. City of Akron (462 U.S. 416)in Congress and the Nation, 1981-1984, at 725-0 (1985),
  11. Paul Finkelman & Melvin I. Urofsky, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Caseyin Landmark Decisions of the United States Supreme Court 528 (2003),
  12. Kenneth Jost, Gonzales, Attorney General v. Carhart,, CQ Supreme Court Collection (2007),
  13. Kenneth Jost, Dobbs, State Health Officer of Mississippi Department of Health v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, CQ Supreme Court Collection (2021),