THE SUPREME Court's decision in Webster v Reproductive Health Services has little immediate impact on physicians' practices but is certain to have dramatic long-range effects. The actual ruling of the court, in the opinion written by Chief Justice Rehnquist, addressed four distinct issues.
First, the court refused to strike down a statement in the Missouri Abortion Control Act that "[t]he life of each human being begins at conception" and that "[u]nborn children have protected interests in life, health and well-being," on the grounds that it can be read merely as a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion rather than as an enforceable proviso.
The Supreme Court then upheld the Missouri prohibitions against performance of abortions in public facilities and against public employees' performing or assisting abortions, unless the abortion is necessary to save the mother's life. The Court held that these provisions do not constitute a "government obstacle" obstructing a