Supreme Court hears oral arguments in MS abortion law

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On Wednesday, Dec. 1, Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart stood in front of the  U.S. Supreme Court to defend a 2018 Mississippi law that limits abortions to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. In a case – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – that’s arguably the most important in a generation, the results of this case will have far-reaching implications. 

Governor Tate Reeves made multiple appearances recently taking a hard stance on abortion. Reeves was a guest on Meet the Press and the keynote speaker at a “Pray Together for Life” event hosted by The Family Research Council at New Horizon Church on Sunday. Reeves maintained there is no fundamental right in the Constitution to an abortion nor is there a restriction on states from limiting access to abortions. 

“We know that Mississippi is the epicenter of the pro-life movement. Americans from all across the country stand together to protect and defend those that cannot defend themselves,” Reeves says. “They absolutely ignore the fact that in getting an abortion, there is an actual killing of an innocent child.”

Anti-abortion views have been a key component of conservative politics in Mississippi. Mississippi’s law would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Supreme Court has never allowed states to ban abortion before 24 weeks, when a fetus can survive outside the womb. If the court decides to overturn Roe v. Wade, a Mississippi “trigger law” could immediately ban abortions in the state. Mississippi is one of 12 states that have it. 

Reeves said its too early to tell how Mississippi will be affected, but says that the state’s law is not much different than many European countries that restrict abortion after the first trimester. 

“Mississippi will still have a law on the books in which 39 countries in Europe have more restrictive abortion laws than what I believe is one of the most conservative states in the U.S.,” he said. 

Pro-choice activists Valencia Robinson and Michelle Colon have been at the forefront of the fight for women’s rights. Robinson, Executive Director of Mississippi in Action, says the governor’s comments are a “joke”.

“This is a man trying to make determinations on a woman’s body. It’s about control. Government is too big when you’re mandating a vaccine, but not too big when you’re getting into someone’s personal life. What sense does that make,” she said. “We’ve had these discussions and a majority of women say they want the right to have an abortion.” 

Robinson says if Roe is overturned it will start a domino effect for other issues like marriage equality. Colon, who is founder of SHERO Mississippi (Sisters Helping Every Woman Rise and Organize) says people shouldn’t be fooled when you hear conservative lawmakers say they’re “pro-life”. 

“Let’s be clear here, the governor, the attorney general, and the majority of the anti-abortion legislators are anti-abortion or pro-birth, they’re not pro-life,” said Colon. “They say they’re preserving the sanctity of life, but the majority of these folks are supporters of the death penalty, supporters of the Second Amendment, and a lot of them are pro-war.”

Colon says this “obsession with the fetus” stops for most lawmakers once the child is born, noting Mississippi’s poverty and hunger rates as prime examples. She says these legislators regularly undermine social programs that are designed for impoverished and single mother households. If the law is changed, Colon says women in the south will have to go to Florida or Illinois to get an abortion for a procedure that is safer than childbirth. 

“For Mississippians, this means more time from work, more money, and more gas because there’s a 24-hour wait period,” she said. 

Robinson says it’s naive to think that abortions won’t still happen if they become illegal, but education is important. 

“We’ve got to destigmatize abortion, much like we did HIV. It’s a medical procedure. And if we have to stand outside the way anti’s stand outside, those are the steps we’re going to take,” she said. “Whatever we have to do to get people what they need and keep people safe, that’s what we’ll have to do. 

Now that arguments have ended, justices will convene and go over the case, each explaining his/her vote and reasoning. The senior justice in the majority and minority will get to choose who writes the opinion – a process that will take months with plenty of drafts between chambers. 

For the Jackson Advocate’s full interview with Colon and Robinson, find us on Spotify and YouTube: @jacksonadvocate.

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Supreme Court hears oral arguments in MS abortion law

By Brad Franklin
December 10, 2021