Supreme Court will consider Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban

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Washington D.C., May 17, 2021 / 08:20 am (CNA).

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider a case involving a state 15-week abortion ban.

The court will be taking up the case of Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs, involving Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The high court agreed only to consider one question presented in the petition for certiorari, namely, “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional?”

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the law in question, was signed into law in 2018 but is not currently in effect. Although it banned 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.

Pro-life leaders praised the court’s decision to take up the case.

“States should be allowed to craft laws that are in line with both public opinion on this issue as well as basic human compassion, instead of the extreme policy that Roe imposed,” Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, stated. Roe v. Wade was the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The Roe ruling said that states could not ban abortions prior to the “viability” of the unborn child.

“Every human life is valuable, and Mississippi’s law is a commonsense step toward protecting unborn children and their mothers from the harms of late-term abortion,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Denise Harle stated on Monday.

“The law protects the life of a baby who can already move around and kick in her mom’s womb—a child who has a heartbeat, can taste what her mom eats, and can experience pain,” she stated. And the law also protects women, since late-term abortions grow increasingly dangerous to the mother’s health.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights sued on behalf of the abortion clinic Jackson Women’s Health Organization. A district court judge ruled against the law in November 2018, and in December 2019, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling.

The state of Mississippi appealed to the Supreme Court in 2020, and the court on Monday agreed to hear the case.

The state’s Catholic dioceses of Jackson and Biloxi have supported the law, in a written friend-of-the-court brief.

They stated that “the state’s interest in protecting unborn children who have the capacity to feel pain is sufficiently compelling to support a limited prohibition on abortion.”

While a challenge to federal regulations of the abortion pill regimen was the first abortion-related case for new Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the Supreme Court, the case against Mississippi’s law is the most significant abortion-related case of her tenure.

Fifth Circuit court Judge Patrick Higginbotham authored the opinion for the Fifth Circuit in 2019, upholding the district court’s decision.

“In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade , the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability. States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right, but they may not ban abortions,” he wrote.

“The law at issue is a ban. Thus, we affirm the district court’s invalidation of the law, as well as its discovery rulings and its award of permanent injunctive relief,” he added.

This article was updated with additional information on May 17.

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