National pro-life leaders, including Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), expressed satisfaction that the U.S. Supreme Court has finally agreed to reexamine “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional” and if state laws that prohibit most abortions are unconstitutional.
The Court has agreed to hear the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health during its term that begins in October, one that could present the most significant challenge to its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.
Daines, chairman of the Senate Pro-Life Caucus, said in a statement, “It is long past time for the Supreme Court to right this wrong and I am encouraged to see the Court announce it will take up this case.”
“Every life is precious and created with dignity and potential,” the senator added. “There is no constitutional right to abortion, yet for nearly 50 years since Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, more than 62 million children have been the tragic victims of abortion.”
Lila Rose, Founder of Live Action, echoed Daines’ response.
“This is the most important abortion-related case in a very long time,” she said. “We are long overdue for the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, decisions that have led to the death of over 60 million innocent children and led many women and men to lifelong regret.”
“A child’s ability to survive outside the womb should not determine his or her humanity or right to not be murdered in a violent abortion,” Rose asserted.
Several legal organizations released statements as well on the Supreme Court’s decision to reconsider viability.
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear this Mississippi case is a positive step toward finally overturning the tragic decision of Roe v. Wade made 48 years ago and subsequent abortion precedent,” Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, said. “Abortion takes the life of an innocent human being and has enormous physical and psychological consequences on the mother.”
“It’s time to stop committing human genocide in this nation, and Mississippi now can take the lead,” he added.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Denise Harle said, “Every human life is valuable, and Mississippi’s law is a commonsense step toward protecting unborn children and their mothers from the harms of late-term abortion.”
Harle described the effects of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban:
The law protects the life of a baby who can already move around and kick in her mom’s womb—a child who has a heartbeat, can taste what her mom eats, and can experience pain. And the law also protects women, since late-term abortions grow increasingly dangerous to the mother’s health. Women and their children both deserve real health care; that’s why we’re glad the Supreme Court has decided to take up this matter.
John Bursch, ADF senior counsel, noted as well that advances in medical science since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 have led to changes in the concept of “viability”:
The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that states are free to regulate late-term abortions. Thanks to amazing progress in scientific research and medical technology, the concept of “viability” is an ever-moving target as younger children have survived and thrived after preterm birth.
“But ‘viability’ has never been a legitimate way to determine a developing infant’s dignity or to decide anybody’s legal existence,” Bursch observed nevertheless. “The high court should take this important opportunity to resolve the conflicts between its previous rulings and affirm the constitutionality of Mississippi’s law.”
Americans United for Life (AUL) stressed that, since the Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, the United States is now “one of only seven nations across the globe that allow abortion for any reason after 20 weeks of gestation.”
AUL especially noted:
The Court, as it sometimes does, has decided to hear only 1 of the 3 questions presented to the Court by Mississippi: “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” [sic]
By addressing the first question, the Court has signaled that it is focused on the key issue of the constitutionality of legal limits on late-term abortions. Some federal courts have held that the Court’s viability rule adopted in Planned Parenthood v. Casey is “categorical,” such that no legislative prohibition of any abortion before viability is enforceable.
“That the Supreme Court is considering this Mississippi law is a promising signal that perhaps a majority of Justices wish to give states greater power to regulate abortion,” Steven H. Aden, AUL chief legal officer and general counsel, said. “At the same time, if the Court rejects Mississippi’s common sense HB 1510 protections, the pro-life movement will face a fundamental reckoning.”
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, referred to a Marist poll that showed an “overwhelming majority of Americans agree” that allowing abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy “goes way too far.”
“In fact, 70% think abortion should be limited to – at most – the first three months of pregnancy,” she added. “States should be allowed to craft laws that are in line with both public opinion on this issue as well as basic human compassion, instead of the extreme policy that Roe imposed.”
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser agreed states have taken the lead in protecting unborn human life:
“This is a landmark opportunity for the Supreme Court to recognize the right of states to protect unborn children from the horrors of painful late-term abortions,” she said, adding:
Across the nation, state lawmakers acting on the will of the people have introduced 536 pro-life bills aimed at humanizing our laws and challenging the radical status quo imposed by Roe. It is time for the Supreme Court to catch up to scientific reality and the resulting consensus of the American people as expressed in elections and policy.
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, explained further the significance of the Court’s decision to hear the Mississippi case:
The Supreme Court took on the role of abortion policy maker when the justices wiped out the laws in all 50 states in creating Roe v. Wade, and for the next 50 years, dedicated pro-life Americans have been motivated to vote so that new justices would be appointed who would provide a real evaluation of abortion in the law. We have been working toward this historic opportunity to right a terrible wrong.
Abortion rights advocates also recognized the significance of the Court’s announcement.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tweeted, “This is the moment anti-abortion politicians have been waiting for since Roe v. Wade was decided: The Supreme Court just announced that it will hear a case that could decimate the constitutional right to abortion.”
In March 2018, former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed House Bill 1510 into law, an act that drew an immediate lawsuit from the state’s only abortion clinic – Jackson Women’s Health Clinic – which claimed the law is unconstitutional.
“We’ll probably be sued here in about half-hour,” Bryant joked as he signed the bill into law. “That’ll be fine with me. It’s worth fighting over.”
Current Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) tweeted, “[S]urely we can agree we cannot allow a child able to survive on her own to be killed by the decision of another human being.”
The law makes exceptions to the 15-week ban if the mother’s life is in danger or the unborn baby has a life-threatening abnormality.
Abortion rights advocates claimed the law is unconstitutional because it prevents women from having abortions prior to the stage of viability, when a fetus is able to live outside its mother’s womb.
“The legal standard that the Supreme Court has said is that a woman has the right to end a pregnancy before viability,” Julie Rikelman, legal counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said at the time, according to Mississippi Today.
“And this ban takes effect well over a month before the fetus is viable, and the Supreme Court has said repeatedly that you just can’t do that,” she added.
However, Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said, “This is not a case simply on regulations of the procedure or the places where it is performed. This goes right to the matter of prohibitions on abortion, or as we would say, protections of the baby.”
There has been a tension for a long time between the law and the jurisprudence in this area. More and more states, including Mississippi, have been passing laws to protect babies before viability (approximately 22 weeks). And the courts have insisted that the states do have an interest in the life of the child throughout pregnancy. Yet the courts continue to strike down laws that protect babies before viability as unconstitutional.
“Now, that tension has to give,” Pavone said. “If the states have an interest in the child’s life and want to protect the child, then why not?”