A cascade of Republicans called on the U.S. Supreme Court to roll back constitutional abortion protections, potentially by overruling the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide.
In a brief filed Thursday, 228 GOP members of Congress urged the court to uphold Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy -- and overturn Roe along the way if necessary. A separate brief from 12 Republican governors asked the court to toss out its abortion-rights precedents, arguing that “the authority to regulate abortion should be returned to the states.”
The congressional filing, following a separate one Monday on behalf of three GOP senators, puts virtually the entire Republican caucus on record as opposing the 1973 Roe decision. Only three Republican senators -- Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia -- opted not to join the brief.
“Mississippi’s case provides the court a chance to release its vise grip on abortion politics,” argued the 228 lawmakers, represented by the advocacy group Americans United for Life. “Congress and the states have shown that they are ready and able to address the issue in ways that reflect Americans’ varying viewpoints and are grounded in the science of fetal development and maternal health.”
The brief said the court should overturn Roe and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling “if necessary.”
The Mississippi case will mark the court’s first look at abortion rights since Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation last year gave the court three Donald Trump appointees and a 6-3 conservative majority. The court, which accepted Mississippi’s appeal in May after months of behind-the-scenes deliberations, hasn’t yet set an argument date. A ruling is likely by June 2022.
Abortion-rights advocates said they would hold lawmakers accountable at the ballot box for their efforts to overturn Roe.
“Every single politician who signed this amicus brief is actively working to strip away our fundamental freedoms and endanger pregnant people and families across the country,” said Christian LoBue, chief campaigns and advocacy officer at NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Conservative states have been moving to take advantage of the reshaped court. In the first half of 2021 alone, states enacted 90 new abortion restrictions, including near-total bans in Arkansas and Oklahoma, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that backs reproductive rights.
The Mississippi law is being challenged by the state’s only abortion facility, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The Mississippi ban, enacted in 2018, makes exceptions only in cases of severe fetal abnormality or major health risk to the woman. A federal district judge and then a federal appeals court said the ban was unconstitutional.
The case is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 19-1392.
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