The U.S. Supreme Court will consider a Mississippi abortion law that directly challenges the main factor in the landmark Roe v. Wade.
Roe, the landmark ruling that legalized abortions, is challenged by the Mississippi law that bans virtually all abortions after 15 weeks.
According to Politico: “In a one-line order, the court said it will review just one question that cuts to the heart of Roe: whether all bans on abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb are unconstitutional.”
The Court has agreed to take up the case in the fall, which could also have significant effect on the 2022 midterm elections. It will also be the first abortion-related case since the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, giving the court a 6-3 conservative majority.
The Mississippi law is the first to reach the nation’s highest court from other states who have enacted legislation that has been intended to challenge the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that declared that abortion was a constitutional right.
Forty-four other states have enacted roughly 500 pro-life laws this year, compared to just 300 in 2019.
BREAKING: The Supreme Court agrees to take up a major abortion case that will give the court an opportunity to reconsider Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The case involves the constitutionality of Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) May 17, 2021
Mississippi’s Pro-Life Law
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In 2018, Mississippi passed the Gestational Act. The law allowed abortions after 15 weeks only in the case medical emergencies or extreme “fetal abnormality.” Law scholars say that it is the most important case the Supreme Court has heard since the Casey decision in 1992.
That case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, upheld several new provisions put into the law by the Pennsylvania legislature, including notification of a woman’s husband of her intent to get an abortion and a 24-hour waiting period.
The Court ultimately reaffirmed Roe and and created a new legal standard to determine whether or not restrictions are legal: “undue burden” on the woman seeking an abortion.
While the Supreme Court has routinely stated that states cannot restrict abortion before the age of viability, at the heart of the Mississippi law is the argument that advancements in medical knowledge point to the age of viability being much earlier in pregnancy than previously believed.
Federal District Court Judge Carlton Reeves struck the law down. He said that the state, “chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to enforce a decades-long campaign, fueled by interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade.”
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Judge Reeves’s ruling, which put the decision of whether or not to take it up at the hands of the Supreme Court.
If the Supreme Court authorizes Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban, it will have to overturn the central holdings of Roe and Casey. By doing so, the court may effectively greenlight total bans on abortion. Reproductive rights advocates have been dreading this day for a long time.
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) May 17, 2021
Other States Pushing Pro-Life Laws
Several other states have passed pro-life laws recently. In South Carolina, SB1 requires doctors to perform ultrasound tests to detect cardiac activity. If it is found, an abortion can only be performed in cases of rape or incest, or if the life of the mother is in jeopardy.
Kansas might be next behind Mississippi in the most restrictive laws. HCR5003 has already passed in the state legislature. It amends the Bill of Rights of the Kansas state Constitution to reserve to the people the right to regulate abortion through their elected state representatives and senators.
In 2022, Kansas residents will decide whether the state constitution allows a right to abortion at all.
U.S. states continue to pass increasingly extreme reproductive health restrictions, namely targeting limiting abortion access, at an accelerated rate. In the last week of April 2021 alone, 28 state abortion restrictions were enacted.
— IWPR (@IWPResearch) May 14, 2021
Both Pro-Life And Pro-Choice Groups On Edge
People on both sides of the abortion issue are concerned that court rulings and laws being upheld or overturned could be a blow to their respective sides.
Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood said, “This legislative season is shaping up to be one of the most hostile in recent history for reproductive health and rights. These abortion restrictions are about power and control over our bodies.”
Anti-abortion politicians have exploited their power for this exact moment: the chance for the newly compromised Supreme Court to take our right to abortion. We’ll keep working with our partners to ensure everyone who needs access to abortion can and will get the care they need. https://t.co/KaMw4RXUmU
— Alexis McGill Johnson (@alexismcgill) May 17, 2021
Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, said, “We’re very bold and unapologetic in our aspirations that we want to see a day in America where the most vulnerable among us are protected. The ultimate goal of the pro-life movement is to see Roe v. Wade overturned.”
Today the Supreme Court agreed to hear a major abortion case. Every human life is valuable. And the majority of Americans support commonsense laws like Mississippi’s, which protects unborn children and their mothers. We’re hopeful the Supreme Court will agree.
— Kristen Waggoner (@KWaggonerADF) May 17, 2021
One issue that hasn’t been talked about much could have even bigger political implications.
The Republican Party has long used the prospect of conservative justices overturning Roe as part of their pitch to conservative voters in Senate and Presidential races.
Voters gave the party the Senate and a President who had three ostensibly conservative justices confirmed to the Court. With a 6-3 conservative majority, if Roe is upheld, conservative voters might not find that argument very persuasive in the future.
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