After almost a year of uneasy build-up, it’s finally happening—on Thursday, Mississippi filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade in order to uphold a state law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Mississippi anti-abortion law that the court will be examining in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization bans abortions after 15 weeks of gestation without exceptions for rape or incest. The bill was signed into law in 2018 but has not been enacted due to it being declared unconstitutional by lower courts.
In the filing, Mississippi attorney general Lynn Fitch encouraged the Supreme Court to overrule both its 1973 Roe ruling as well as the 1992 case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which prevented states from placing an “undue burden” on women’s right to choose an abortion before fetal viability at 24 weeks. “Roe and Casey are unprincipled decisions that have damaged the democratic process, poisoned our national discourse, plagued the law — and, in doing so, harmed this Court,” states the brief. The Mississippi brief also attempts to claim that Roe is actually out of date because of developments in society and science—specifically claiming that in today’s world, “adoption is accessible” (false) and “contraceptives are more available and effective” (“more” is a relative measurement).
The Mississippi clinic involved in the Supreme Court case, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is the only abortion clinic in the state, and is being represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights. In a statement about the filing, the center’s president and CEO Nancy Northup called Mississippi’s approach to banning abortion “extreme and regressive.” “Women of child-bearing age in the U.S. have never known a world in which they don’t have this basic right,” she wrote, “and we will keep fighting to make sure they never will.”
The Supreme Court will hear arguments for the case this November and December, making it likely that its decision will come right as midterm congressional elections are approaching in 2022. This case is the most direct challenge to abortion rights that the Supreme Court has heard in decades, and both sides of the debate view its outcome as crucial in understanding how the court’s 6-3 conservative majority could limit abortion rights going forward.