Mississippi Asks Supreme Court to Overturn Roe, Abortion Rights

July 22, 2021, 9:54 PM

Mississippi called on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the constitutional right to abortion, raising the stakes in a polarizing clash the justices are set to hear in the term that starts in October.

In a court filing Thursday, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch called the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide, “egregiously wrong.” She said the case for overturning Roe and a 1992 follow-up ruling was “overwhelming.”

Those rulings “have proven hopelessly unworkable,” Fitch wrote. “They have inflicted profound damage. Decades of progress have overtaken them. Reliance interests do not support retaining them. And nothing but a full break from those cases can stem the harms they have caused.”

Abortion opponents are seeking to take advantage of a court reshaped by three Donald Trump appointees, including two successors to justices who backed the core abortion right. Justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced the retired Anthony Kennedy while Justice Amy Coney Barrett took the seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died less than two months before last November’s election.

The high court case centers on a Mississippi law that would ban the procedure in almost all circumstances after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The justices have agreed to hear the case but haven’t yet set when they will hear arguments. The court is likely to rule by next June.

Fitch’s 49-page brief goes beyond the appeal she filed last year, when she asked the court to let states restrict abortion even before a fetus becomes viable, or capable of living outside the womb.

The court established viability as a key dividing line in the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling, which said states can’t impose significant restrictions until that point. The court in Casey didn’t pinpoint when viability occurs but suggested it was around 23 or 24 weeks at the time of the ruling.

‘Extreme and Regressive’

“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents the clinic challenging the law. “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.”

Conservative states have been moving to take advantage of the reshaped court and sharply restrict abortion rights. In the first half of 2021 alone, states enacted 90 new abortion restrictions, including near-total bans in Arkansas and Oklahoma, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that backs reproductive rights.

The Mississippi ban makes exceptions only in cases of severe fetal abnormality or major health risk to the woman. A federal district judge and then a federal appeals court said the ban was unconstitutional.

The 2018 law was challenged by the state’s only abortion facility, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The case is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 19-1392.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Elizabeth Wasserman at ewasserman2@bloomberg.net

Jon Morgan

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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