On Dec. 1, the Supreme Court first heard arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which is a case that many argue has the possibility to overturn Roe v. Wade. For that reason, many people are invested in how this case turns out, with nationwide protests for both sides having taken place on Dec. 1. The case has been prominent in the news largely because of people’s reaction to it, along with the possibility of the mostly conservative Supreme Court using this case to overturn Roe v. Wade. It is worth learning what the facts of the case are and what brought it to the Supreme Court, as all of that plays a pivotal role in everything.
It all started with Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which bans abortion after the fetus reaches a gestational age of 15 weeks, which is around three months into a pregnancy. The law leaves exceptions for medical emergencies and severe fetal abnormalities where a fetus is incompatible with life outside of the womb. It is worth noting that while 15 weeks seems like a lot of time, the law measures gestational age starting after the last menstrual cycle, so if someone became pregnant right before their next period (so around four weeks after their last menstrual cycle), they would already have lost four of those weeks. In addition, the average American finds out they are pregnant when they are between five and six weeks along, so that’s even more time lost. It also doesn’t help that the Gestational Age Act justifies the restrictions by using “facts” that have been disproven or misleading, such as how elective abortions are “dangerous for the maternal patient,” despite the complication rate being 1.5 percent for the second trimester or later abortions according to statistics published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Because of that, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which is the only medical facility that provides abortions in Mississippi, received a temporary restraining order to block enforcement of the Gestational Age Act from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. This was owed to the Supreme Court’s decision of Roe v. Wade, which required that a state cannot prohibit or regulate abortions until the fetus becomes viable outside of the womb, which is around 24 weeks of gestational age. Because the ruling from the lower court was not in favor of Mississippi’s abortion law, Thomas Dobbs, who is Mississippi’s State Health Officer, appealed to the Supreme Court to hear the case and uphold the Gestational Age Act. On May 17 of last year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
Now that the context around the case has been established, the actual case that is being presented to the Supreme Court can be looked at. After all, “overturning Roe v. Wade” could mean a lot of different things, considering how many states have their own restrictive but different abortion laws. Currently, Texas has a law that bans abortions after six weeks and allows for vigilantes to sue anyone helping someone get an abortion. This is clearly not that case, so why is it still important? Basically, petitioners can ask the Supreme Court to come to a decision and answer a question they present, and the question being asked is very important. For Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, that question asks the Supreme Court to decide whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional,” which could spell an end to the freedom provided by Roe v. Wade. Basically, the petitioners in this case, including Dobbs, want the Supreme Court to rule that restrictions on abortions before 24 gestational weeks are constitutional. That new ruling would mean that the earlier decision made in Roe v. Wade prohibiting such abortion restrictions would be overturned. In turn, that would allow for all states, and not just Mississippi, to prohibit abortions before 24 gestational weeks. This would mean that more states can make abortion bans as restrictive as Texas’ abortion ban without anyone being able to stop them.
To summarize, the fear of many Americans that Roe v. Wade will be overturned and most abortions will be banned is a real possibility, and the women living in the United States are facing the possibility of losing their reproductive rights. Because of this, many people have chosen to speak out against what is happening and make their voices heard, since it is not too late. The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision in June, but until a ruling is made, anything can happen.