The US Department of Justice (DOJ) sought participation in a controversial abortion lawsuit on Monday. The lawsuit, which is set to be heard in December at the Supreme Court, could have far reaching effects on abortion access throughout the country as it may reconsider precedents set in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
This case arises out of a lawsuit between Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the only abortion provider in the state—and the state of Mississippi. The Gestational Age Act, passed in 2018, outlaws abortions after 15 weeks. The law carves out few exceptions such as when the mother’s life is endangered or the fetus is unlikely to survive outside of the womb.
The law was blocked at both the federal district and appellate court levels, and the Supreme Court debated for months before deciding to take up the case in May. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch then filed a brief with the Supreme Court in July asking it to reconsider its precedential rulings in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
The DOJ submitted an amicus curiae brief requesting participation, including 65 minutes of oral argument enlargement and 15 minutes of argument time for itself. The DOJ noted that participation as amicus curiae in abortion cases is not uncommon and referred to three landmark cases over the last four decades in which it took such an action. The state consented to DOJ’s participation, but not to an enlargement of oral argument time.
The DOJ responded that Mississippi is asking the Supreme Court to overturn precedent “recognizing that the Fourteenth Amendment protects a woman’s right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy before viability.”
The DOJ has been actively litigating to defend abortion access and is likely to continue to face legal battles over the matter. Post the Supreme Court’s highly controversial refusal, marked by scathing dissents from four Justices, to block the Texas six-week abortion ban, the DOJ warned that it will not tolerate violence against those who are trying to obtain provide reproductive health services. Five days later, the DOJ filed a lawsuit challenging the Texas ban asserting that the law defies the Supremacy Clause because it lacks an exception for cases of rape and incest. Last week, the DOJ filed an emergency motion seeking to immediately block the Texas abortion restriction pending further proceedings.