The attorney general of Mississippi filed a brief with the Supreme Court on Thursday in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case which asks the Court to reconsider its precedential rulings in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
The question presented in the brief to the Court is, “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional?” The case concerns a lawsuit filed over the Gestational Age Act, passed by the state and signed into law in 2018, which would allow abortions after 15 weeks only in cases of medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality, with no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. The law was blocked at both the district and appellate court levels, and the Supreme Court debated for months before deciding to take up the case.
Calling Roe and Casey “egregiously wrong,” the brief argues that there is nothing in the “text, structure, history, or tradition” of the Constitution that protects a woman’s right to an abortion. Because nothing in the constitution protects that right, a ban on elective abortions should be constitutional if it meets the rational basis review standard. The problem, according to the brief, is the Court’s decisions in Roe and Casey that found a constitutional right to abortion, and imposed a heightened standard of review of laws that limit pre-viability abortions in any way. The brief calls that reasoning “flawed” and asserts that if a state’s interests are compelling enough to limit post-viability abortions, they should be compelling enough to limit them pre-viability.
The brief further asserts that there can be no reliance interest in maintaining the status quo regarding abortion, because times have changed. Roe and Casey held that unwanted pregnancies “could doom women to a distressful life and future,” and that abortion was a needed complement to contraception. The brief notes that adoption and contraceptive are available on a much wider scale, and that women can now attain professional success and have children at the same time. “States should be able to act on th[e]se developments,” the brief concludes.
Lynn Fitch, Mississippi’s attorney general, released a statement saying “It is time for the Court to set this right and return this political debate to the political branches of government.” Nancy Northup, the CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Jackson Women’s Health Organization (the only remaining abortion provider in Mississippi), called the attorney general’s strategy “extreme and regressive,” saying the goal of the suit is “to take away our right to control our own bodies and our own futures—not just in Mississippi, but everywhere.”
Oral arguments are scheduled for October.