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For now, SCOTUS takes no action on...

For now, SCOTUS takes no action on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban case

By: Frank Corder - January 25, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court did not add the Mississippi 15-week abortion case to its docket in today’s release of orders, a move conservatives in the state and onlookers across the nation were supporting as the action was viewed as a significant challenge to the longstanding Roe v Wade.

Pro-life supporters believe with the current make-up of the Supreme Court now is the time for such cases to be heard in hopes of rolling back the effects of Roe.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court in June 2020 to ask the Court to review Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which preserves the right to life after 15 weeks within the womb.

According to Fitch, that petition asked the Court to clarify its jurisprudence on abortion to allow states like Mississippi to enact laws that further their legitimate interests in protecting maternal health, safeguarding unborn babies, and promoting respect for innocent and vulnerable life.

AG Fitch said she hoped that the Court would accept the case and “allow Mississippi to defend innocent life as the Legislature and people of this great State intend.”

According to Decision Magazine, Roe v. Wade established that states are not permitted to ban abortion before the fetus would be viable to live outside the womb. Justices clarified that decision in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey saying that states have the right to implement restrictions on abortion after the point of viability.

“At the time of Roe, viability was considered to be after 24 weeks,” the DM article states. “But the Supreme Court has never specified what the point of viability is, which conservatives argue is a reason to bring up a case like the Mississippi ban.”

The Mississippi Legislature passed the 15-week abortion ban in 2018.  The next year, lawmakers passed legislation that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, or near six weeks of pregnancy.  Both laws were struck down by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves.

“Here we go again,” Reeves wrote in his order following the 2019 fetal heartbeat ruling. “Mississippi has passed another law banning abortions prior to viability.”

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Judge Reeves in December 2019, calling the 15-week ban unconstitutional.

“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,” the Court of Appeals wrote. “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.”

The Mississippi case before the Court is titled Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.  Fitch’s petition can be read here.  If the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately declines to hear the Mississippi abortion case, there are more than a dozen abortion cases circulating in the lower courts.

“We remain hopeful that they take it up at a future conference,” a spokesperson for AG Fitch told Y’all Politics on Monday.

The next regularly scheduled conference of the Justices is in late February, meaning the Court could then decide whether or not to hear the Mississippi case.



About the Author(s)
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Frank Corder

Frank Corder is a native of Pascagoula. For nearly two decades, he has reported and offered analysis on government, public policy, business and matters of faith. Frank’s interviews, articles, and columns have been shared throughout Mississippi as well as in national publications such as the Daily Caller. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, providing insight and commentary on the inner workings of the Magnolia State. Frank has served his community in both elected and appointed public office, hosted his own local radio and television programs, and managed private businesses all while being an engaged husband and father. Email Frank: