Madison family in D.C. as Supreme Court hears abortion case

Madison family in D.C. as Supreme Court hears abortion case


Both sides were expected to tell the Supreme Court there’s no middle ground in Wednesday’s showdown over abortion. The justices can either reaffirm the constitutional right to an abortion or wipe it away altogether.

In support of the movement, many Mississippians traveled to Washington, D.C., including Anja Baker of Madison.

“I am honored to be at our nation’s Capitol, sharing with the world the power and generosity of Mississippi at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Baker, a graduate of Germantown High School and Mississippi State University. Baker is married with two children and currently serves as Mississippi State Coordinator for Susan B. Anthony Education Fund. 

Baker said she is proud of the support she sees from Mississippians for the hearing.

“Mississippi non-profits, churches, and everyday people are more prepared than they ever have been to support women and their babies,” Baker said. “Nearly 50 years of unworkable jurisprudence has tied the hands of Mississippi lawmakers, preventing us from protecting the most vulnerable among us. As a mother, a Mississippian, a Mississippi pregnancy center advocate, and special needs mom, I am excited to see our community rise up for this grand occasion.”

Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that declared a nationwide right to abortion, is facing its most serious challenge in 30 years in front of a court with a Mississippi case with a 6-3 conservative majority that has been remade by three appointees of President Donald Trump.

Ahead of the oral arguments, Gov. Tate Reeves on Sunday defended the state’s 2018 law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Reeves told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he believed 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision, by which the high court legalized abortion nationwide, should be overturned.

“I believe, in a simple reading of the United States Constitution, that when Roe was decided in 1973, there is no fundamental right in our United States Constitution to an abortion,” Reeves said.

He also said he believed a 1992 case that reaffirmed Roe was wrong, accusing justices of allowing “politics to play into their decision making.”

Mississippi Republicans have long vied to send test cases to the Supreme Court with the aim of overturning Roe. Anti-abortion views are an important pillar of conservative politics in the state.

The Supreme Court has never allowed states to ban abortion before the point at roughly 24 weeks when a fetus can survive outside the womb.

Lower courts blocked the Mississippi law, as they have other abortion bans that employ traditional enforcement methods by state and local officials. The Supreme Court had never before even agreed to hear a case over what abortion activists call a pre-viability abortion ban.

Mississippi’s only abortion clinic in Jackson offers abortions up to 16 weeks of pregnancy, and about 60 abortions a week are performed there.

Reeves argued that Mississippi’s law is not out of line because many European countries restrict abortion after the first trimester.

“Mississippi will still have a law on the books in which 39 countries, 39 out of 42 in Europe, have more restrictive abortion laws than what I believe to be one of the most conservative states in the United States,” Reeves said.

The governor was pressed on NBC about how he squares his desire to restrict abortion with his calls for personal freedom in opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

“The difference between vaccine mandates and abortions is vaccines allow you to protect yourself,” Reeves said. “Abortions actually go in and kill other American babies.”

A ruling that overturned Roe and the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey would lead to outright bans or severe restrictions on abortion in 26 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

“This is the most worried I’ve ever been,” said Shannon Brewer, who runs the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The clinic offers abortions up to 16 weeks of pregnancy and about 10% of abortions it performs take place after the 15th week, Brewer said.

Lower courts blocked the Mississippi law, as they have other abortion bans that employ traditional enforcement methods by state and local officials.

The court could uphold the Mississippi law without explicitly overruling Roe and Casey, an outcome that would satisfy neither side.

Abortion-rights advocates say that result would amount to the same thing as an outright ruling overturning the earlier cases because it would erase the rationale undergirding nearly a half-century of Supreme Court law.

“A decision upholding this ban is tantamount to overruling Roe. The ban prohibits abortion around two months before viability,” said Julie Rikelman, who will argue the case for abortion.

On the other side, abortion opponents argue that the court essentially invented abortion law in Roe and Casey, and shouldn’t repeat that mistake in this case.

If the justices uphold Mississippi’s law, they’ll have to explain why, said Thomas Jipping, a Heritage Foundation legal fellow. They can either overrule the two big cases, Jipping said, “or they’re going to have to come up with another made-up rule.”

Conservative commentator Ed Whelan said such an outcome would be a “massive defeat” on par with the Casey decision in 1992, in which a court with eight justices appointed by Republican presidents unexpectedly reaffirmed Roe.

This court appears far more conservative than the one that decided Casey, and legal historian Mary Ziegler at Florida State University’s law school, said the court probably would “overrule Roe or set us on a path to doing so.”

Chief Justice John Roberts might find the more incremental approach appealing if he can persuade a majority of the court to go along. Since Roberts became chief justice in 2005, the court has moved in smaller steps on some issues.

Mississippi is one of 12 states ready to act almost immediately if Roe is overturned. Mississippi has an abortion trigger law that would take effect and ban all or nearly all abortions.

Some legal briefs in the case make clear that the end of Roe is not the ultimate goal of abortion opponents.

The court should recognize that “unborn children are persons” under the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, a conclusion that would compel an end to almost all legal abortions, Princeton professor Robert George and scholar John Finnis wrote. Finnis was Justice Neil Gorsuch’s adviser on his Oxford dissertation, an argument against assisted suicide.

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