The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a major abortion case out of Mississippi on Friday, just days after the Senate confirmed pro-life Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, challenges a state law that prohibits abortions on unborn babies after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A federal judge struck down the Mississippi law in 2018, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling in 2019; but the state appealed to the Supreme Court.
On Friday, the justices’ schedule includes time to debate whether they will hear the state’s appeal, CNN reports.
According to Romper, the case is significant, not only because of Barrett, but also because “it is widely considered to be a direct challenge to the precedent outlined in the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.”
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Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch asked the high court to consider the 15-week abortion ban earlier this summer. Last week, she filed a supplemental brief with arguments based on another abortion case that the Supreme Court ruled on in June, CBS News reports.
“The petition asks the court to clarify its jurisprudence on abortion to allow states like ours to enact laws that further their legitimate interests in protecting maternal health, safeguarding unborn babies, and promoting respect for innocent and vulnerable life,” Fitch said in a statement in June. “We are hopeful that the court will accept our case and allow Mississippi to defend innocent life as the legislature and the people of this great state intend.”
SCOTUS blog outlined three questions in the case that the high court may consider:
“Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”
“Whether abortion providers have third-party standing to invalidate a law that protects women’s health from the dangers of late-term abortions.”
“Whether the validity of a pre-viability law that protects women’s health, the dignity of unborn children, and the integrity of the medical profession and society should be analyzed under Planned Parenthood v. Casey’s ‘undue burden’ standard or Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt’s balancing of benefits and burdens.”
Pro-abortion leaders are panicking now that the high court has a 6-3 conservative majority. NARAL communications leader Adrienne Kimmell told Romper that the Mississippi case poses a very “real and imminent threat” to Roe.
“Make no mistake: Republicans have been trying to dodge their desire to end Roe, but the cards are on the table,” Kimmell said. “Anti-choice politicians are already hanging the drapes and putting any step in motion they can to strip reproductive freedom from all Americans.”
The 2018 Mississippi law prohibits abortions after 15 weeks except when there are risks to the life or physical health of the mother or fatal fetal anomalies. Based on state health records, about 200 unborn babies between 15 and 20 weeks are aborted every year in Mississippi.
There is more hope that the Supreme Court may consider overturning Roe, especially with Barrett on the court, but it is difficult to say if it will take up the Mississippi case.
Several other abortion cases also could be considered by the high court in the coming months.
Many experts point to a case brought by Whole Woman’s Health challenging a ban on the dilation and evacuation method of abortion. The case is awaiting a decision after being heard in the 5th Circuit. Whole Woman’s Health was the plaintiff in a 2016 abortion case that resulted in a 5-3 decision that ruled Texas couldn’t place restrictions on abortion services that create an “undue burden” for women seeking the services.
There’s also another case from Ohio that challenges a ban on abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court forced states to legalize abortion on demand through Roe v. Wade. As a result, the U.S. is one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. States may protect unborn babies from abortions once they are viable, but they do not have to; and some states, including Colorado and New Mexico, allow unborn babies to be aborted for any reason up to birth.
If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, both pro-life and pro-abortion activists agree that abortions would not immediately become illegal. Instead, the power to protect unborn babies or keep abortions legal would return to the states.