Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case heard by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, is being described as the greatest threat to abortion rights since Roe v. Wade.
In 1973, the Roe v. Wade decision allowed for women to opt for an abortion within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, but this new case out of Mississippi challenges to lower that period down to no more than 15 weeks.
Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization was signed into law in Mississippi by Governor Phil Bryant back in March 2018, a lawmaker that has since been replaced by Republican Tate Reeves.
At the time, Gov. Bryant said that he was “committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child, and this bill will help us achieve that goal.”
“We’ll probably be sued here in about a half hour, and that’ll be fine with me,” he continued. “It is worth fighting over.”
As predicted, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last surviving abortion clinic in the state, challenged the law, and the circuit court petitioned their appeal to the highest court in the nation. Thomas Dobbs, State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health, was tasked with defending the state’s law that banned abortions.
According to the plaintiff, the Mississippi law violated the Supreme Court’s holding in Planned Parenthood v. Casey from 1992, which declared that “a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.”
After remaining silent about Texas’ recent anti-abortion law that enabled citizens the right to police anyone they suspected of getting or offering an abortion, many critics are worried that the Supreme Court may allow similar anti-abortion legislation to pass in Mississippi.
Oral arguments ended on Wednesday in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, with Chief Justice Roberts to be the first member of the Supreme Court to give his vote and reasoning in a process that may take months.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the newest appointee added during the Trump administration, will hear her first case explicitly challenging Roe v. Wade since the majority of the court became conservative.
According to Vox, if the Mississippi law is allowed to pass, it would effectively end Roe v. Wade, even if the words “Roe v. Wade is overruled” are not said. Upholding minor passages of Roe v. Wade would technically keep the law in place, even if the decision to let the Mississippi law stand contradicted the most important parts of Roe.
As Elle reported, if the law is allowed to stand, 24 states, including 11 states where existing anti-abortion laws could become full bans, will most likely outlaw abortion entirely.
Forty-one percent of women would see the nearest abortion clinic to them close, Elle reported, with the average distance to the next available clinic jumping from 35 miles to potentially 279 miles.
President Joe Biden stood by his support for Roe v. Wade earlier on Wednesday, saying that “it’s a rational position to take.”
U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the nation’s top lawyer in the Biden administration, also urged the court not to “disrupt” Roe v. Wade, stating that “women who are unable to travel hundreds of miles to gain access to legal abortion will be required to continue with their pregnancies and give birth with profound effects on their bodies, their health, and the course of their lives.”
“If this court renounces the liberty interest recognized in Roe… it would be an unprecedented contraction of individual rights,” she continued. “The court has never revoked a right that is so fundamental to so many Americans and so central to their ability to participate fully and equally in society.”
Drafts of the Supreme Court’s decision will likely pass back and forth between justices for a long time before an official ruling is given.