Diocesan Pro-Life Directors, State Catholic Conference Directors

Greg Schleppenbach, Associate Director

May 18, 2021

U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Constitutional Challenge
to Mississippi’s 15-Week Abortion Ban
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court agreed to take up an abortion case that addresses the constitutionality of a 15-week abortion ban passed into law in Mississippi.

The Mississippi statute prohibits abortion if the age of the unborn child, as calculated from the first day of the last menstrual cycle, is greater than 15 weeks.1 There is an exception for severe fetal abnormality and “medical emergency.”2 The statute defines “medical emergency” as “a condition in which, on the basis of the physician's good faith clinical judgment, an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of a pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition arising from the pregnancy itself, or when the continuation of the pregnancy will create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”3

Lower courts struck down the Mississippi statute under Casey. State officials subsequently filed a petition for certiorari, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up three questions. Today, the Supreme Court granted certiorari on the first of the three questions: “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”4 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No 19-1392 (U.S. May 17, 2021) (order granting certiorari).

The case will be briefed over the next few months and is expected to be orally argued in the October 2021 Term with a decision likely at the end of June 2022. No date has yet been set for argument. Stay tuned for further updates as this case moves forward.
1 Miss. Code Ann. § 41-41-191 (“Except in a medical emergency or in the case of a severe fetal abnormality, a person shall not intentionally or knowingly perform, induce, or attempt to perform or induce an abortion of an unborn human being if the probable gestational age of the unborn human being has been determined to be greater than fifteen (15) weeks.”). Section 41-41-191 defines “gestational age” and “probable gestational age” to mean “the age of an unborn human being as calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period of the pregnant woman.”

2 Id.

3 Id.

4 The two questions on which the Court did not grant cert are as follows: “Whether the validity of a pre-viability law that protects women’s health, the dignity of unborn children, and the integrity of the medical profession and society should be analyzed under Casey’s ‘undue burden’ standard or Hellerstedt’s balancing of benefits and burdens,” and “Whether abortion providers have third-party standing to invalidate a law that protects women’s health from the dangers of late-term abortions.”
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