The Future of Reproductive Rights May Hinge on Supreme Court Challenge to Mississippi Abortion Ban
Defenders of reproductive freedom in Mississippi on Monday petitioned the United States Supreme Court to strike down the state’s ban on abortions after 15-weeks, arguing that the law is unconstitutional and places an “undue burden” on patients seeking to terminate a pregnancy.
The Court agreed to hear challenges to the legislation in May, and how the nine Justices rule could have enormous implications for the future of women’s health and reproductive rights, including the survival of Roe versus Wade, which codified access to abortion as a constitutional right under the 14th Amendment.
“Every version of the State’s argument amounts to the same thing: a request that the Court scuttle a half-century of precedent and invite states to ban abortion entirely. Insofar as the Court considers this argument, the Court should reject it,” the plaintiffs state in their brief. “Mississippi does not meaningfully engage with the personal autonomy and bodily integrity interests that underpin constitutional protection for the right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy. And once one recognizes that there is a liberty interest here that demands heightened protection, it is clear that the viability line safeguards that interest in a principled and workable way. Nor has any legal or factual change occurred that justifies giving any less protection for that liberty interest today. To the contrary, the years since Casey have only reinforced the importance of access to legal abortion for gender equality.”
Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents the plaintiffs, told The New York Times in a statement on Monday that “Texas has managed to ban abortion even as Roe stands, and other states have said they will follow in its footsteps. While Texas is circumventing Roe and the Constitution, Mississippi is openly asking the court to overturn Roe. If the court grants Mississippi’s request to overturn Roe, large swaths of the South and Midwest — where abortion is already hard to access — will eliminate abortion completely.”
Earlier this month, the Court issued a 5-4 decision allowing the Texas Heartbeat Act – which bans abortions after 6 weeks without exceptions and offers bounties to armed vigilantes who successfully sue any individuals who “aids and abets” patients seeking an abortion – to stand, further endangering the future of abortion rights nationwide.
Mississippis’s Republican Attorney General Lynn Fitch, meanwhile, has unambiguously asked the High Court to overturn Roe, arguing that the petitioners made “no solid arguments in defense of Roe, and the Court should overturn this flawed and hopelessly unworkable precedent.”
Roe was “egregiously wrong,” Fitch wrote in July. “The Constitution does not protect a right to abortion. The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion. Nothing in the Constitution’s structure implies a right to abortion or prohibits states from restricting it.”
Abortion providers have countered Fitch’s stance by asking the Court to consider “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”