Into the Courts: Litigation
for Social Change
If the changes in abortion law made by the legislatures were unsatisfactory, another route was open to reformers—litigation. 1 If a ruling could be had that the state laws violated either the federal or state constitutions, the abortion laws could be overturned without legislative action; a ruling by the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds could overturn abortion laws in all of the states. Declaring these laws invalid on legal grounds would have the same effect as repealing them completely and would be a great coup for women's groups favoring that goal. Two difficulties would be getting the cases into court and finding a constitutional basis for challenging the laws.
Because courts are open to individuals and small organizations, they are often the political agencies that first feel the pressure to make changes in existing law. Legislatures, it is true, are open to views of all kinds, but some groups have better and more varied opportunities to influence the legislative branch than others do. Legislative bodies represent, by design, majority views and established interests. Legislatures like to "let sleeping dogs lie" and resist becoming involved in unpopular battles (such as repeal of the abortion laws) that lose votes without winning any. New ideas