Before Texas’s six-week abortion ban went into effect earlier this month, many abortion rights advocates predicted that the Supreme Court might use Mississippi’s 15-week ban—which justices agreed to hear in May—to gut Roe v. Wade come winter. Instead the court managed to do so ahead of schedule by failing to strike down S.B. 8, making Roe effectively meaningless for 1 in 10 women of reproductive age in the United States, according to Guttmacher Institute. That said, there’s still plenty left to lose if the court rules in favor of the Mississippi law.
On Monday, abortion providers in the state, the plaintiffs in the suit, urged justices not to “jettison a half-century of settled precedent,” and warned them that doing so would erode the Americans’ confidence in the judiciary.
“Unless the Court is to be perceived as representing nothing more than the preferences of its current membership, it is critical that judicial protection hold firm absent the most dramatic and unexpected changes in law or fact,” plaintiffs wrote in Monday’s brief.
Mississippi’s law takes up the question of whether states can regulate—or, in this case, make outright illegal—abortions that occur before fetal viability. As Jessica Mason Pieklo explained at Rewire earlier this year, the court has answered this question before, not in Roe v. Wade but in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 landmark ruling that allowed states to pass restrictions on abortion so long as they occur before viability (usually between 24 and 28 weeks).
If Supreme Court justices deemed Mississippi’s 15-week ban constitutional, they would be opening the door to conservative states banning abortion at any gestational age. State legislatures would not need the legal loophole Texas lawmakers relied on to put their laws into effect.
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“While Texas is circumventing Roe and the Constitution, Mississippi is openly asking the court to overturn Roe,” Nancy Northrup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the organization representing providers in the case, told the New York Times. “If the court grants Mississippi’s request to overturn Roe, large swaths of the South and Midwest—where abortion is already hard to access—will eliminate abortion completely.”