Supreme Court Delays Decision on Mississippi Abortion Law, Again

Lynn Fitch, the state’s attorney general, has asked the court to review its law, which bans abortion after fifteen weeks of gestation and has been challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.
United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (photo: Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock)

WASHINGTON — Pro-life advocates are hopeful the Supreme Court will review an abortion law in Mississippi, even though the court once again delayed its decision on whether to hear the case. 

Lynn Fitch, the state’s attorney general, has asked the court to review its law, which bans abortion after fifteen weeks of gestation and has been challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The state’s only abortion facility offers abortions until the 16th week of a pregnancy. 

Mississippi’s previous governor, Phi Bryant, R, signed the ban into law in 2018, but it was subject to immediate legal appeal and blocked by a district court. In 2019, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the law to be unconstitutional. Fifteen weeks is considered to be prior to fetal viability outside the womb. 

The Supreme Court had been expected to announce whether it would hear the case on Friday. 

The court was due to conference regarding the law on Nov. 13, but instead announced on Monday that it had again delayed a decision. This is the fifth time since September 22 that the conference has been rescheduled. No reason for the delay, or new date, was given. 

Noah Brandt, communications director for Americans United for Life, told CNA that “While we can’t know if the court will grant the petition, we do know that preborn children are just as human as the rest of us, and deserve the basic human rights granted to all Americans and enshrined in our cherished constitution.”

If the Supreme Court takes the case, the court “has the chance to preserve the Constitutional rights of a group of Americans most susceptible to violence and harm,” said Brandt. 

“This case out of Mississippi would protect preborn children once they reach 15 weeks of age, a stage of development in which a baby has a strong heartbeat and all of the features we would recognize as intrinsically human,” he said. 

If the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, the lower court rulings will stand.

After the passage and subsequent blocking of the 2018 law, Mississippi passed a law banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. That, too, was blocked from ever going into effect.

Despite the judicial hurdles, Brandt has optimism for the future. 

“We are encouraged by the strong citizens and legislators of Mississippi and look forward to more communities passing legal protections for all Americans in the coming months," he said.

The Supreme Court’s pending decision on whether to hear the appeal has come under intense scrutiny, following the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett last month.

During the last court term, the justices struck down a Louisiana law which would have required doctors working in aboriton facilities to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital. 

The decision was decided by a 5-4 margin, with Chief Justice John Roberts acting as the deciding vote. Roberts had previously voted in favor of upholding a similar Texas law in 2016, but sided with the majority in the Louisiana case in deference to the previous decision as precedent.

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