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There Is No Good Reason for the Supreme Court To Hear This Ridiculously Unconstitutional Abortion Ban Case

Pro-choice activists supporting legal access to abortion protest during a demonstration outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC

The Supreme Court announced today that it will review a case out of Mississippi regarding the state’s attempts to ban abortion at fifteen weeks gestation. Fifteen weeks is significantly before the point of viability (when a fetus can survive outside of the womb), and Roe v. Wade explicitly says a person is entitled to choose to have an abortion prior to viability, so you would think this would be an easy pass for the Supreme Court, and yet here we are.

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Remember during the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, when they were asked if they would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade, and they said that the case was “settled law,” which isn’t really a “no” but is supposed to sound like a “no” while winking “yes” at conservatives? Remember how reproductive justice activists were accused of overreacting to these justices’ confirmations?

This is exactly why we were all freaking out, and it was never an overreaction.

This case, Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs, has no business going before the Supreme Court. Back in 2018, Mississippi’s governor signed the ban into law, making it the state with the harshest abortion restrictions in the country. Within just a few hours, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state’s last remaining abortion clinic (Jackson Women’s Health), and the very next day, the ban was temporarily blocked by the district court.

Later that year, the block was made permanent and that ruling was then upheld by the intensely conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Over and over, this ban has been struck down and declared unconstitutional. Some of the federal judges even seem pissed that they had to hear the glaringly flimsy case in the first place.

In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves wrote that the state’s GOP lawmakers’ claims that this ban was about “women’s health” were “pure gaslighting” and he slammed the state’s decision to waste a “tremendous amount” of taxpayer money litigating it.

“The State chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades-long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,” he wrote, adding, “This Court follows the commands of the Supreme Court and the dictates of the United States Constitution, rather than the disingenuous calculations of the Mississippi Legislature.”

So why is SCOTUS reviewing the case at all? Well, because those calculations may have been disingenuous, but they worked. Rewire’s Imani Gandi explained it back in 2020, just after Coney Barrett was confirmed:

Mississippi doesn’t have to convince the district court or the Fifth Circuit that its “legal” arguments are sound. Mississippi has to convince the Supreme Court, where a new justice was installed on the bench just yesterday to destroy access to health care, including abortion care. If Mississippi’s lawyers give newly minted Justice Amy Coney Barrett an abortion turd, she’ll find a way to polish it into an abortion stone.

Basically, there is no reason for SCOTUS to take up this case except to overturn it.

As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern noted on Twitter, the Supreme Court has been sitting on this case since last year: “There was clearly a battle behind the scenes between the justices over the decision to take this case. It is an extraordinarily ominous sign for reproductive rights that the anti-abortion faction apparently won out.”

If the Supreme Court overturns this case, it would have catastrophic effects in states beyond just Mississippi. Conservative lawmakers have been planning for the day Roe v. Wade is overturned, implementing “trigger laws” and putting other measures in place that would ban abortions the instant that happens.

“Alarm bells are ringing loudly about the threat to reproductive rights,” Nancy Northup, President & CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a statement. “The Supreme Court just agreed to review an abortion ban that unquestionably violates nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent and is a test case to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

“The consequences of a Roe reversal would be devastating. Over 20 states would prohibit abortion outright. Eleven states—including Mississippi—currently have trigger bans on the books which would instantaneously ban abortion if Roe is overturned. Already, abortion is nearly impossible to access for people in states like Mississippi, where lawmakers have been chipping away at the right to abortion for decades. We will keep fighting to make sure that people do not lose this fundamental right to control their own bodies and futures.”

(image: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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