CNA—The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear arguments in a critical abortion case on Dec. 1.
In the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to Mississippi’s law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the court will decide the question of whether all state abortion bans pre-viability are unconstitutional. “Viability” is the court’s legal standard from 1973, regarded as the point at which an unborn child can survive outside the womb.
The court on Monday announced the date of oral arguments in the Dobbs case, scheduled for Dec. 1. Both the state of Mississippi and the abortion clinic challenging the law will have an opportunity to present arguments in-person to justices both for and against the law.
The Dobbs case is considered to be the latest and perhaps the best opportunity for pro-life advocates to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. States, the court ruled in Roe, could not ban abortions pre-viability.
Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the law in question, was signed into law in 2018 but is not currently in effect. Although it restricted most abortions after 15 weeks, it included exceptions for when the mother’s life or major bodily function is in danger, or in cases where the unborn child has a severe abnormality and is not expected to survive outside the womb at full term.
The law would be enforced by revocation of state medical licenses for doctors in violation, and a fine of up to $500 for falsification of medical records about the circumstances of an abortion.
One pro-life leader on Monday expressed support for Mississippi’s law.
“It is time to follow the science and modernize our laws,” stated Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.
The Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence has hampered state efforts to regulate abortion, she said, arguing that it has “made the United States one of only seven countries in the world – including China and North Korea – that allow abortion on demand for any reason up to birth.”
Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic, submitted its legal brief to the Supreme Court last week arguing that the court should maintain its abortion jurisprudence in Roe, as well as the 1992 case that upheld Roe, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The clinic is represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Although the case regards Mississippi’s abortion law, both the state and Jackson Women’s Health Organization focused their legal briefs on either overturning or upholding Roe and Casey.
The state of Mississippi asked the Court to overturn Roe, arguing that “the conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition.”
Meanwhile, the brief of Jackson Women’s Health claimed that Mississippi’s law was a violation of rights established in the Roe and Casey decisions. Because of the two abortion rulings, “two generations … have come to depend on the availability of legal abortion,” the clinic argued.
Furthermore, Mississippi’s standard of 15 weeks violates Roe’s standard of viability, the brief argued.
“Medical consensus and the undisputed facts in the case establish that viability occurs no earlier than 23-24 weeks of pregnancy, precisely the time identified thirty years ago in Casey,” the brief stated.
On Monday, Dannenfelser stated that “[s]cience reveals the undeniable humanity of the unborn child.”
“By 15 weeks, an unborn baby’s heart has beat nearly 16 million times. She already shows a preference for her right or left hand, responds to taste, and can feel pain. They and their mothers deserve protection in the law,” she said.
Jeanne Mancini, president of the group March for Life, said on Monday, “We look forward to when the Supreme Court will reconsider the status quo of abortion jurisprudence which currently allows abortions to take place through all nine months of pregnancy.”
“States have the right to protect all of their citizens, including those developing in the womb,” she said.