Abortion rights advocates on Monday warned that “chaos would ensue” if the Supreme Court were to overrule long-standing precedent protecting the constitutional right to abortion.
The assertion came in a court filing by abortion providers in Mississippi who are challenging the state’s ban on virtually all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
“The fallout would be swift and certain,” the group argued. “As abortion bans are enforced — or the threat of enforcement looms — large swaths of the South and Midwest would likely be without access to legal abortion.”
The justices in coming months will review Mississippi’s restrictive law, which is on a collision course with the court’s landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and decades of later rulings that have affirmed the right to an abortion before fetal viability, typically around 24 weeks.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, an advocacy group that is representing the Mississippi abortion providers in the case, said a decision undercutting Roe would see a sharp curtailment of abortion access in dozens of states.
More than 90 abortion restrictions have already been enacted this year, according to the abortion rights think tank the Guttmacher Institute, which has called 2021 “the worst legislative year ever” for abortion rights in the U.S.
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R), who is defending the law, explicitly urged the justices to use the case as a vehicle to overrule Roe, calling the court’s precedent on abortion “egregiously wrong.”
A dozen Republican governors in a friend-of-the-court brief also asked the justices to eliminate federal abortion protections in order to allow states to regulate the procedure.
Mississippi’s appeal to the Supreme Court followed losses in the lower courts. In 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that Mississippi's restriction was an unconstitutional ban on a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy before fetal viability.
The 15-week abortion ban makes exceptions for only a medical emergency or a “severe fetal abnormality.”
Abortion opponents are hoping for a sympathetic audience with a Supreme Court bench composed of six conservative justices, including three appointees of former President TrumpDonald TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Trump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension MORE.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote turned down an emergency request from abortion providers to block Texas's new six-week abortion ban.
Legal experts said the Supreme Court’s refusal to block the restrictive Texas measure could foreshadow further erosion of reproductive rights when the conservative majority court weighs the Mississippi law.