The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled Friday to consider a Mississippi law that protects unborn babies and mothers by banning abortions after 15 weeks.
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch asked the high court to uphold the pro-life law last year, but the justices have not decided yet whether to take up the case.
SCOTUS Blog reports the justices did not act on the case during their private conference on Jan. 15, but they are scheduled to meet again Friday.
Notably, Friday is the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that forced states to legalized abortion on demand. The Mississippi case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, challenges the current legal precedent that blocks states from protecting unborn babies from abortions before they are viable.
The 2018 law at the center of the case prohibits abortions after 15 weeks except when there are risks to the life or physical health of the mother or fatal fetal anomalies. It is not being enforced because of a lower court injunction. A federal judge sided with the Jackson Women’s Health abortion facility in late 2018, ruling that the 15-week ban violates women’s constitutional right to abortion.
“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.”
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Joining Mississippi and 18 other states in urging the justices to uphold the law are 375 women who were injured when their unborn babies were killed in second- and third-trimester abortions. They submitted a brief in July asking the court to consider their abortion stories rather than the testimonies of “self-interested” abortionists.
The women said they know from personal experience that “allowing unlimited access to late term abortion after 15 weeks will mean countless women will suffer ‘devastating psychological injuries’ which may last a lifetime.”
If upheld, the law would be the earliest ban on abortion in the U.S. Currently, Mississippi prohibits abortions after 20 weeks.
According to state health data, about 200 abortions a year are performed on unborn babies who are between 15 and 20 weeks. At 15 weeks, the most common abortion method is dismemberment via dilation and evacuation (D&E). The brutal second-trimester procedure uses clamps and other tools to pull the unborn baby apart limb from limb, often while their heart is still beating.
At 15 weeks, unborn babies are nearly fully formed. Their major organs, fingers, toes, eyes, ears, taste buds and even their own unique fingerprints have developed. By this point in the pregnancy, scientists say unborn babies respond to touch, and research indicates they are capable of feeling pain. Unborn babies at this stage also have been observed yawning, smiling and sucking their thumbs.
Under Roe v. Wade, states are prohibited from banning abortions prior to viability. The infamous ruling made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and, since 1973, more than 62 million unborn babies have been legally aborted.
Pro-life advocates hope the Supreme Court will accept the case and overturn Roe or at least modify it to allow states to protect unborn babies in more circumstances.
Six of the justices are Republican appointees while three were chosen by Democrat presidents, but Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican appointee, recently sided with the liberal justices on a Louisiana abortion case.