The state of Mississippi filed a brief with the Supreme Court July 22 defending the state’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and asking the court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in the fall, raising the stakes in what many are calling the most important Supreme Court abortion case in three decades.
“Nothing in constitutional text, structure, history or tradition supports a right to abortion,” the brief reads.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization centers on HB 1510, a Mississippi law passed in 2018 that changed state law from banning most abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation to 15 weeks’ gestation. Generally, fetal viability has been considered to be around 24 weeks, though modern medicine has helped thousands of babies survive even earlier births.
According to the law, any doctor who performs an abortion after 15 weeks for reasons other than severe fetal deformity or to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency could face up to 10 years in prison.
Soon after HB 1510 was signed, Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, filed a lawsuit against the state over the new law.
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who is leading the case, argued that “scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” and “states should be able to act on those developments.”
Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationally, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protects the right to abortion before a fetus becomes viable, are “unprincipled decisions,” said Fitch.
“[They] have damaged the democratic process, poisoned our national discourse, plagued the law—and, in doing so, harmed this court,” she added. “ … Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date.”
March for Life President Jeanne Mancini agreed, writing in a statement that “updating America’s abortion jurisprudence is necessary and long overdue.”
“The law at issue before the Supreme Court concerns moderate limits on the abortion of a child who has developed past 15 weeks, with a fully formed nose and lips, eyelids and eyebrows—when her humanity is beyond debate,” she said. “Limiting gruesome late term abortions is compassionate and popular; and the norm in countries that have allowed their laws to catch up with the science. Sadly, right now, the United States is one of only seven countries … that allow elective abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.”