Next year, the majority conservative Supreme Court will have their first chance to take aim at reproductive rights.
The Supreme Court announced in June that they will hear a case on a 15-week abortion ban. The Mississippi case, Jackson Women’s Health Organization vs Dobbs, will be the first major abortion decision for the court’s new conservative majority.
If upheld, the ruling could lay the groundwork for future attacks on Roe v. Wade, threatening abortion access for 25 million women across the United States.
What is Jackson Women’s Health Organization vs Dobbs?
In 2018, Mississippi lawmakers attempted to pass a law banning abortion after 15 weeks, directly violating Roe v. Wade. Under the 1973 landmark decision, states can’t pass legislation prohibiting abortion before fetal viability, which usually occurs at 23-24 weeks.
Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s last abortion clinic, filed a lawsuit in response to the law. The 15-week ban was deemed unconstitutional and struck down twice in the courts.
Regarding the ruling, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote, “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.”
By bringing this case to the Supreme Court, Mississippi isn’t directly asking for the 1973 decision to be overruled. But this would be a step for the conservative majority to chipping away at protections for abortion access.
Why does the Mississippi case matter?
The Mississippi case could be the first opportunity for the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to undermine reproductive rights. If the court upholds the 15-week abortion ban, they’re directly violating a core holding of Roe v. Wade.
During his term, President Trump appointed three Justices with the intention to end abortion. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg in late 2020, has been a vocal anti-choice advocate in the past. As a law professor, she signed a statement in a 2006 newspaper advertisement opposing “abortion on demand.” The other two Trump appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, are also expected to support restrictions on abortion.
After the Supreme Court decides on this case in 2022, we can expect to see more states introduce legislation that violates Roe v. Wade in attempts to chip away at abortion access.
What will happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned?
If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi case, Roe v. Wade won’t be struck down immediately. However, it could set in motion a series of rulings that would lead to its demise.
If the 1973 decision were overturned, 10 states including Mississippi with “trigger bans” would instantly prohibit abortion. Without the protections of Roe v. Wade, another 12 states would likely pass harsh restrictions or abortion bans. In this scenario, state-level politics will become more important than ever in defending the right to choose.
In more than half of states, women would maintain access to abortion after Roe v. Wade. However, 41% of American women would see their nearest abortion clinic close. The overturn of Roe v. Wade would not end abortion in the country, but ultimately establish stark inequalities in reproductive rights throughout states.
What does this mean for Florida?
When the Supreme Court rules on the Mississippi case in 2022, Florida won’t be directly impacted. But if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, abortion access in Florida could fall into the hands of the Republican-controlled state legislature.
Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has shown a track record of anti-choice views throughout his tenure. Last year, he signed a parental consent bill which would prevent minors from making their own choices about their bodies. Under this legislation, young people would be forced to single-handedly navigate the legal system in order to seek a “judicial bypass”, which would allow them to have an abortion without parental consent.
This year, the 2021 legislative session saw three attacks on reproductive rights from Florida lawmakers. First, the Florida House passed a “reason ban”, which would restrict some early abortions due to fetal disabilities. Next, like the Mississippi legislature, State Senators also attempted to pass an unconstitutional 20-week ban. Finally, a TRAP (Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers) bill would force abortion patients to decide how fetal tissue would be disposed after the procedure. While none of the bills were ultimately signed into law, these attacks on reproductive rights are a danger sign for a post-Roe Florida.
Martina Brady is a volunteer in Miami, Florida.
Find her on Twitter @MartinaAnnaB.