Simopoulos v. Virginia
Slip Opinion 1983 June 15
On June 15, 1983[date of decision] Justice Powell delivered the opinion of the Supreme Court in the case of Chris Simopoulos, Appellant v. Virginia. The principal issue is whether Virginia's mandatory hospitalization requirement is constitutional. The Appellant, an obstetrician gynecologist, was convicted following a Virginia state court trial for violating Virginia statutory provisions that made it unlawful to perform an abortion during the 2nd trimester of pregnancy outside of a licensed hospital. The evidence at the trial established, "inter alia," that he performed a 2nd trimester abortion on an unmarried minor by an injection of saline solution at his unlicensed clinic; that the minor understood appellant to agree to her plan to deliver the fetus in a motel and did not recall being advised to go to a hospital when labor began, although such advice was included in an instruction sheet provided her by appellant; and that the minor, alone in a motel room, aborted her fetus 48 hours following the saline injection. The Virginia Supreme Court affirmed appellant's conviction. The Virginia abortion statute was not unconstitutionally applied to appellant on the asserted ground that the State failed to allege in the indictment and to prove lack of medical necessity for the abortion. The prosecution, under the authoritative construction of the statute by the Virginia Supreme Court, was not obligated to prove lack of medical necessity beyond a reasonable doubt until appellant invoked medical necessity as a defense. Placing upon the defendant the burden of going forward with evidence on an affirmative defense is normally permissible. Appellant's contention that the prosecution failed to prove that his acts in fact caused the fetus' death is without merit, in view of the undisputed facts proved at the trial. The requirement by the state of Virginia that 2nd trimester abortions be performed in licensed outpatient clinics (outpatient surgical clinic may be licensed as a "hospital") is not an unreasonable means of furthering the State's important and legitimate interest in protecting the woman's health, which interest becomes "compelling" at approximately the end of the 1st trimester. The Virginia statutes and regulations do not require that such abortions be performed exclusively in full service hospitals, but allow their performance at licensed outpatient clinics. Thus, the decisions in Akron and Ashcroft are not controlling here. The Virginia regulations are compatible with accepted medical standards governing outpatient 2nd trimester abortions.
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