The Supreme Court on Monday said it would consider a case from Mississippi that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of gestation, a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.,
‘A Great Sense of Inspiration’: Anti-Abortion Activists Express Optimism
The Supreme Court on Monday said it would consider a case from Mississippi that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of gestation, a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.
The Supreme Court announced on Monday morning that it would consider a case from Mississippi that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of gestation, with narrow exceptions. Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
Anti-abortion activists across the country expressed optimism on Monday that they might be on the cusp of achieving a long-held goal of the movement: overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that extended federal protections for abortion.
The Supreme Court announced on Monday morning that it would consider in its next term a case from Mississippi that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of gestation, with narrow exceptions. The case is a direct challenge to the 1973 ruling, which prevents states from banning abortion before fetal viability — around 23 or 24 weeks of gestation.
It is the first abortion case under the court’s new 6-3 conservative majority, and activists expressed hope that this case would be the one to remove federal protections for the procedure. Such a ruling would give the right to regulate abortions at any point in pregnancy back to the states, many of which in the South and Midwest have imposed tough restrictions.
“There’s a great sense of inspiration across the country right now,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. “This is the best court we’ve had in my lifetime, and we hope and pray that this is the case to do it.”
In a statement, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, a national anti-abortion organization, called the court’s move “a landmark opportunity to recognize the right of states to protect unborn children,” and noted that state legislatures have introduced hundreds of bills restricting abortion in this legislative season.
Abortion rights advocates, for their part, said they were shocked that the Supreme Court had taken the case.
“Alarm bells are ringing loudly,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only clinic in Mississippi still performing abortions. “The consequences of a Roe reversal would be devastating.”
In the past, abortion rights groups often had success in federal appeals courts. But over the years, a concerted effort by Republicans to get more conservatives appointed to the federal bench has shifted the balance. At the very top, the appointment of two conservatives, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett M. Kavanaugh, to the Supreme Court by former President Donald J. Trump has tipped the balance toward conservatives.
It remains to be seen how the court will rule on this case. Still, the shifting makeup of the Supreme Court has energized the anti-abortion movement. This year alone, hundreds of bills have passed Republican-controlled state legislatures, largely in the South and the Midwest.
The Guttmacher Institute, which tracks women’s reproductive health legislation, has counted 536 abortion restrictions that passed between January and the end of April, with 61 of those restrictions enacted in 13 states. By this time in 2011, the year “previously regarded as the most hostile to abortion rights since Roe,” Guttmacher said, 42 restrictions had been enacted.
The group said that Louisiana was the only other state to have passed a 15-week ban. A spokeswoman for Guttmacher said the Louisiana ban would go into effect if the Mississippi law is upheld.
For years, Mississippi’s legislature has passed restrictions that have whittled down access to abortion. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the only clinic left in the state. The 15-week ban was passed in 2018, and the following year the state, along with a number of others, passed a six-week ban. All of the bans have been suspended, while the court system works out whether they will be allowed to stand, given the constraints imposed by Roe and the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision, Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.
The Mississippi case will not be decided until 2022, in the Supreme Court’s next term. In the meantime, anti-abortion advocates said they will continue to work at the state level to restrict access to the procedure. Mr. Gonidakis said his organization was working on getting a so-called trigger ban passed by the Ohio legislature, effectively stopping all abortions in the state should Roe v. Wade be overturned.
“You’re going to see pro-life legislators across the country rush to pass legislation,” he said.