Bench Memos

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Alito’s Advice on the Thornburgh Abortion Case


Today’s set of documents released by the Archives includes this May 1985 memo from Sam Alito (then an attorney in the Office of the Solicitor General) to Solicitor General Fried regarding the United States’s participation in the Thornburgh abortion case. The Third Circuit had struck down the informed-consent provision and several other provisions of Pennsylvania law. In his memo, Alito agreed with the recommendation of the Justice Department’s Civil Division and Office of Legal Policy that the United States file an amicus brief in support of the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania provisions.

The media will probably find it newsworthy that an attorney in the SG’s office would be faithfully serving the interests of the administration for which he worked. In the present context, it is worth having in mind that the positions that Alito advanced on informed-consent regulations are essentially the same ones that Justice O’Connor adopted in her dissent in Thornburgh and in her 1992 opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.


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