By Lawrence Hurley | Reuters
WASHINGTON – The state of Mississippi on Thursday urged the United States Supreme Court in a major case that will be argued during its next term to overturn the landmark 1973 ruling that recognized women have a constitutional right to have an abortion .
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, a Republican, said in court documents that the Roe v. Wade and a later 1992 ruling that affirmed it were both “grossly in error” and that state legislatures should be given more leeway to restrict abortion. The court has a conservative 6-3 majority.
The case marked the first time that Mississippi, in seeking to revive a restrictive state abortion law blocked by lower courts, has overturned Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide and ended a time when some states had banned the procedure, a central part of his case.
“It is time for the court to settle this right and return this political debate to the political branches of government,” Fitch added in a statement.
Mississippi is one of many Republican-ruled states in recent years that have passed increasingly restrictive abortion laws.
The court agreed in May to take up the Mississippi case and will hear it during its tenure starting in October. Judges are expected to hear oral argument in November, with a ruling due by the end of June 2022.
“If Roe falls, half of the states in the country are on the verge of a complete ban on abortion. In the United States, women of childbearing age have never known a world in which they do not have this basic right, and we will continue to fight so that they never do, ”said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is among those who challenge the Mississippi law.
The Republicans-backed Mississippi law of 2018 prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The lower courts ruled against the law, which lawmakers enacted with full knowledge that it was a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.
It has been a longstanding goal of religious conservatives to overturn Roe v. Wade, who recognized that a constitutional right to privacy protects a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion. The court, in its 1992 decision, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, reaffirmed the ruling and prohibited laws that place an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion.
Roe v. Wade said states cannot ban abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, which is generally considered by doctors to be between 24 and 28 weeks. Mississippi law would ban abortion much earlier than that. Other states have backed laws that would ban the procedure even earlier.
Abortion opponents hope the Supreme Court will reduce or overturn Roe v. Wade. The court’s Conservative majority includes the addition last year of the third person appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump, Justice Amy Coney Barrett. She replaced Liberal Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an abortion rights champion who died in September.
After Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, filed a lawsuit to block the 15-week ban, a federal judge in 2018 ruled against the state. The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Court of Appeals in 2019 came to the same conclusion.
The Supreme Court, in a June 5 and 4, 2020 decision, overturned a Louisiana law that placed restrictions on doctors who perform abortions. Ginsburg was still on the court at the time and Tory Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the Liberal wing of the court in the decision. Roberts, however, made it clear that he voted that way because he felt bound by the 2016 court decision overturning a similar law in Texas.