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Clouds are seen above the U.S. Supreme Court building on May 17, 2021

Clouds are seen above the U.S. Supreme Court building on May 17, 2021 in Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court said that it will hear a Mississippi abortion case that challenges Roe v. Wade. They will hear the case in October, with a decision likely to come in June of 2022. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Revealing 'Extreme and Regressive Strategy,' Mississippi Asks SCOTUS to Overturn Roe

"This has always been the anti-choice movement's agenda behind closed doors—now they're operating in plain sight."

Andrea Germanos

Mississippi's attorney general on Thursday explicitly asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade as the state appeals a lower court ruling on its ban of nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of gestation.

The opening brief (pdf) Mississippi filed with the court, said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, "reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country."

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the case in 2018 on behalf of Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's sole abortion care provider. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, will be argued in the fall session.

When the Supreme Court agreed this May to take up the case, reproductive rights advocates sounded alarm. Planned Parenthood Action warned at the time that the outcome from the majority of right-wing justices could put "25 million people at risk of losing abortion access."

Mississippi's new brief reveals a shift from when it asked the Supreme Court last year to take up the case. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch then argued (pdf) that "the questions presented in this petition do not require the court to overturn Roe or Casey," the latter referring to the 1992 case affirming abortion rights. 

Fitch's Thursday brief said that "the question becomes whether this court should overrule those decisions. It should."

Roe and Casey, she added, "are egregiously wrong."

According to the New York Times:

The precise question the justices agreed to decide was "whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional." Depending on how the court answers that question, it could reaffirm, revise, or do away with the longstanding constitutional framework for abortion rights.

Ms. Fitch urged the justices to take the third approach, saying it would bolster the legitimacy of the court.

Northup, in her statement, said that the goal of abortion foes "is for the Supreme Court to take away our right to control our own bodies and our own futures—not just in Mississippi, but everywhere."

"Let's be clear," she continued, "any ruling in favor of Mississippi in this case overturns the core holding of Roe—the right to make a decision about whether to continue a pregnancy before viability. The court has held that the Constitution guarantees this right. If Roe falls, half the states in the country are poised to ban abortion entirely."

The Guttmacher Institute says that 10 states have so-called "trigger" laws to ban abortion if Roe is overturned, and over a dozen others could likely enact abortion restrictions if Roe falls.

NARAL Pro-Choice America acting president Adrienne Kimmell had a similar takeaway as Northup from the new brief. 

“The state of Mississippi is explicitly seeking to end the constitutional right to abortion and subvert the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans who support Roe and the legal right to abortion," said Kimmell. "This has always been the anti-choice movement's agenda behind closed doors—now they're operating in plain sight."

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