The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up a major abortion case that will be heard and decided next year, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. An abortion clinic has sued the state of Mississippi in the state over a law the state passed in 2018 that bars abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, excepting limited medical circumstances.
Lawyers for the state of Mississippi filed their brief with the Supreme Court on July 22, asking the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The state’s brief argues that the Court’s previous abortion cases have no legal basis in the Constitution and create continuous logical conflicts for courts throughout the country. “Abortion jurisprudence has placed this Court at the center of a controversy that it can never resolve,” the brief states.
The state’s arguments take the case to an even higher level than initially expected. Abortion supporters immediately began attacking the brief. Planned Parenthood Action wrote in a statement that “Mississippi just said the quiet part out loud. This was always their end game: to have the Court overrule 50 years of precedent and allow states to ban abortion.”
Mississippi argues that neonatal medicine had advanced in ways that the Court could not have considered when Roe was decided in 1973. It is now known scientifically that unborn children develop much more quickly than was understood when Roe was handed down.
The state also argues that current governmental provisions of family leave, child care, and other medical assistance show that certain assumptions the Roe Court made about unplanned pregnancies are no longer applicable. The brief states, “Roe and Casey, another abortion precedential case, shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date.”
The Supreme Court places great emphasis on preserving previous cases as precedent that lower courts must follow. Mississippi argues that the law is harmed by continuing application of issues that create conflict. “The legitimacy, limits, and policy responses to this Court’s abortion cases have been contested continuously for five decades. This too saps any claim that reliance interests support Roe and Casey,” the state writes in its brief.
Mississippi’s opponent in the case, a Jackson abortion clinic, must file its response brief with the Court by September 13. Following that, the Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments and make its ruling by the conclusion of the current term next summer.