The mandated description of fetal characteristics at two-week intervals, no matter how objective, is plainly overinclusive. [It is] not medical information that is always relevant to the woman's decision, and it may serve to confuse and punish her and to heighten her anxiety.
The Free Exercise Clause at the very least was designed to guarantee freedom of conscience by prohibiting any degree of compulsion in matters of belief. It was offended by a burden on one's religion. The Establishment Clause can be understood as designed in part to ensure that the advancement of religion comes only from the voluntary efforts of its proponents and not from support by the state. Religious groups are to prosper or perish on the intrinsic merit and attraction of their beliefs and practices.
We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.
The mixing of government and religion can be a threat to free government, even if no one is forced to participate.... When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion, it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some.
I am more optimistic though, that this court will eventually conclude that the effort to eliminate arbitrariness while preserving fairness in the infliction of [death] is so plainly doomed to failure that is - and the death penalty - must be abandoned altogether. I may not live to see that day, but I have faith that eventually it will arrive.
Of one thing, however, I am certain. Just as an execution without adequate safeguards is unacceptable, so too is an execution when the condemned prisoner can prove that he is innocent. The execution of a person who can show that he is innocent comes perilously close to simple murder.
From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored--indeed, I have struggled--along with a majority of this Court, to develop procedural and substantive rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor. Rather than continue to coddle the Court's delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved and the need for regulation eviscerated, I feel morally and intellectually obligated to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed.