Mississippi AG says high court should reverse ruling

Mississippi AG says high court should reverse ruling

Mississippi’s attorney general argued Thursday that the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade, its landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion across the US, calling it “egregiously wrong” and insisting the matter should be left solely to the states.

“Under the Constitution, may a State prohibit elective abortions before viability? Yes,” state Attorney General Lynn Fitch and four of her colleagues wrote in a 49-page brief filed with the court. “Why? Because nothing in constitutional text, structure, history, or tradition supports a right to abortion.”

At issue is a Mississippi law prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks, which was successfully challenged by the state’s only abortion clinic. The Supreme Court agreed to take up the case in May.

In addition to Roe, the Mississippi brief also took aim at the court’s decision in a 1992 case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the justices upheld most provisions of a Pennsylvania law restricting abortions, but stopped short of overturning Roe. With its ruling in the 1992 case, the court set the precedent that state laws should not impose an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions.

The U.S. Supreme Court
The Supreme Court made its landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

Roe and Casey are egregiously wrong,” the brief read. “They have proven hopelessly unworkable. They have inflicted profound damage. Decades of progress have overtaken them … And nothing but a full break from those cases can stem the harms they have caused.”

The brief further argued that in the decades since Roe and Casey were decided, “adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability.

“States should be able to act on those developments,” it added. “But Roe and Casey shackle States to a view of the facts that is decades out of date.”

The Mississippi law, which allows exceptions to the 15-week ban in cases of medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality, was enacted in 2018 but was blocked following a federal court challenge. An appeals court said that the state had “conceded that it had identified no medical evidence that a fetus would be viable at 15 weeks.”

The brief filed Thursday argued the viability test was “arbitrary” and “a terrible flaw in a judicially announced rule of constitutional law.” Viability occurs roughly at 24 weeks, the point at which babies are more likely to survive.

Republican lawmakers in several states have been pushing laws designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, including bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks.

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization remains open and offers abortions up to 16 weeks into pregnancy. Clinic director Shannon Brewer has said about 10 percent of its abortions are performed after the 15th week.

The Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic, more commonly known as "The Pink House," is shrouded with a black tarp so that its clients may enter in privacy in Jackson, Miss.
The Jackson Women’s Health Organization clinic, more commonly known as “The Pink House,” is shrouded with a black tarp so that its clients may enter in privacy in Jackson, Mississippi.

Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup claimed Thursday that half of the states are set to ban abortion altogether if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The Center is defending the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in the case.

“Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country,” Northup said in a statement. “Their goal is for the Supreme Court to take away our right to control our own bodies and our own futures — not just in Mississippi, but everywhere.”

The Mississippi brief argues that the state’s law “rationally furthers valid interests in protecting unborn life, women’s health, and the medical profession’s integrity,” referring to a clause in the law stating that doctors found in violation of the ban would face mandatory suspension or revocation of their medical license.

The brief concludes with the argument that even if the high court does not overturn Roe and Casey, “it should at minimum hold that there is no pre-viability barrier to state prohibitions on abortion and uphold Mississippi’s law.”

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is the first major abortion case to be heard by the current court, which is split between six conservatives and three liberals. It will likely be heard sometime this fall and could be ruled on in the spring of 2022.

With Post wires

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