UPHOLDING a Missouri law that places significant restrictions on the circumstances under which abortions may be performed, the US Supreme Court has taken a major step toward making it easier for individual states to impose restrictions on a woman's right to abortion. At the same time, the court backed away from overturning the historic Roe v Wade decision of 1973 that legalized abortion in the United States—a course urged by the Bush Administration— and looked to future cases.
The ruling came on the final day of the court's term as it handed down its opinion in the case of Webster v Reproductive Health Services. The court was asked to rule on the constitutionality of a Missouri law, passed in 1986 but never implemented, that restricted the use of public funds and facilities for performing abortions. The restriction extended even to women who were willing to pay for the abortion if