Excerpts from opinions by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

From his dissent in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion:

The Court’s opinion decides that a State may impose virtually no restriction on the performance of abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy. I have difficulty in concluding, as the Court does, that the right of “privacy” is involved in this case. A transaction resulting in an operation such as this is not “private” in the ordinary usage of that word. Nor is the “privacy” that the Court finds here even a distant relative of the freedom from searches and seizures protected by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. …The decision here to break pregnancy into three distinct terms and to outline the permissible restrictions the State may impose in each one, for example, partakes more of judicial legislation. …Even today, when society’s views on abortion are changing, the very existence of the debate is evidence that the “right” to an abortion is not so universally accepted as the appellant would have us believe.

From Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health in 1990, the first ruling in a “right-to-die” case:

We … consider the question whether Cruzan has a right under the United States Constitution which would require the hospital to withdraw life-sustaining treatment from her.

At common law, even the touching of one person by another without consent and without legal justification was a battery. The logical corollary of the doctrine of informed consent is that the patient generally possesses the right not to consent, that is, to refuse treatment.

We assume that the United States Constitution would grant a competent person a constitutionally protected right to refuse lifesaving hydration and nutrition.

Not all incompetent patients will have loved ones available to serve as surrogate decision-makers. A state is entitled to guard against potential abuses … where a guardian seeks to discontinue nutrition and hydration of a person diagnosed to be in a persistent vegetative state. Missouri has permissibly sought to advance these interests through the adoption of a “clear and convincing” standard of proof to govern such proceedings.

From his concurring opinion in Bush v. Gore in 2000:

In a Presidential election the clearly expressed intent of the legislature must prevail. And there is no basis for reading the Florida statutes as requiring the counting of improperly marked ballots, as an examination of the Florida Supreme Court’s textual analysis shows. …The remedy prescribed by the Supreme Court of Florida cannot be deemed an “appropriate” one as of December 8. It significantly departed from the statutory framework in place on November 7, and authorized open-ended further proceedings which could not be completed by December 12, thereby preventing a final determination by that date.

From 2003 Gratz v. Bollinger, in which the court held the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policy in undergraduate admissions went too far because it assigned extra points to applicants with minority status:

Clearly, the LSA’s system does not offer applicants the individualized selection process… . Instead of considering how the differing backgrounds, experiences, and characteristics of students A, B, and C might benefit the University, admissions counselors reviewing LSA applications would simply award both A and B 20 points because their applications indicate that they are African-American, and student C would receive up to 5 points for his “extraordinary talent.” …

Nothing in Justice Powell’s opinion in Bakke signaled that a university may employ whatever means it desires to achieve the stated goal of diversity without regard to the limits imposed by our strict scrutiny analysis. We conclude, therefore, that because the University’s use of race in its current freshman admissions policy is not narrowly tailored to achieve respondents’ asserted compelling interest in diversity, the admissions policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

From his plurality opinion in the 2005 Van Orden v. Perry, which upheld a 6-foot Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol:

Our opinions, like our building, have recognized the role the Decalogue plays in America’s heritage. The Executive and Legislative Branches have also acknowledged the historical role of the Ten Commandments. These displays and recognitions of the Ten Commandments bespeak the rich American tradition of religious acknowledgments.

Of course, the Ten Commandments are religious – they were so viewed at their inception and so remain. The monument, therefore, has religious significance. …Simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause.


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