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Attorney General files brief ahead of Supreme Court review of MS abortion law

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch has filed her brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in preparation for the review of a case that has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

Dubbed Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case centers around a 15-week abortion ban passed by the Mississippi Legislature in 2018 and signed into law by then-Governor Phil Bryant. The law was blocked by a federal judge after a lawsuit was filed by the Mississippi Center for Justice on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the state’s lone abortion clinic.

“There are those who would like to believe that Roe v. Wade settled the issue of abortion once and for all,” Fitch said in a statement. “But all it did was establish a special-rules regime for abortion jurisprudence that has left these cases out of step with other Court decisions and neutral principles of law applied by the Court. As a result, state legislatures, and the people they represent, have lacked clarity in passing laws to protect legitimate public interests, and artificial guideposts have stunted important public debate on how we, as a society, care for the dignity of women and their children. It is time for the Court to set this right and return this political debate to the political branches of government.”

On the contrary, Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, expressed her opinion that the Supreme Court’s review could be harmful to women’s rights everywhere. 

“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades. 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.   

Their goal is for the Supreme Court to take away our right to control our own bodies and our own futures—not just in Mississippi, but everywhere.   

Let’s be clear; any ruling in favor of Mississippi in this case overturns the core holding of Roe –the right to make a decision about whether to continue a pregnancy before viability. The Court has held that the Constitution guarantees this right.

If Roe falls, half the states in the country are poised to ban abortion entirely. Women of child-bearing age in the U.S. have never known a world in which they don’t have this basic right, and we will keep fighting to make sure they never will,” Northup said in a statement. 

The brief filed this afternoon outlines the stance held by the AG’s office that “the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion or limit States’ authority to restrict it” and that the 2018 law “reasonably furthers valid interests in protecting unborn life, women’s health, and the medical profession’s integrity.”

Recently, Fitch detailed that the goal of the lawsuit is not to overturn Roe v. Wade, but rather to uphold the right of states to enact their own laws when it comes to abortion. 

“I don’t think overturning Roe v. Wade is the angle,” she said. “The question is; is there viability? When is there viability and how is that solved by the states? As you see a number of states enacting laws, we are going to uphold that states have the capability to enact laws because they are representing the people across their respective states.”

Similar to a view offered by Governor Tate Reeves, Fitch explained the stance that the science surrounding the abortion discussion has changed the decades since Roe and the Roe, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey cases, especially regarding the viability of an unborn child. 

“At minimum, it is time for the Court to revisit the guidepost of viability to ensure we don’t stay mired in outdated science and societal standards. In the nearly 50 years since Roe, science and society have marched forward, and they will not retreat. Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of facts that is decades out of date,” an overview of the argument reads. 

Fitch has previously stated her expectation that the Supreme Court will hear arguments in November. 

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