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Supreme Court to review Mississippi abortion law

Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 5:42 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear a case centering on a controversial Mississippi abortion law.

The case could have a monumental impact as it deals with an issue that has divided the nation for decades.

Right now, women seeking an abortion in Mississippi don’t have a lot of options.

Many end up in Memphis since Mississippi only has one abortion clinic.

In 2018, when Mississippi passed a law banning abortion after 15 weeks, it was clear what supporters of the law hoped it would mean.

“I’d like to see this go all the way back up to the Supreme Court. I would like to see them overturn Roe v. Wade,” Susanna Stegall with 40 Days For Life said at the time.

Part of their wish came true Monday when the Supreme Court announced it would hear a case on Mississippi’s abortion law.

A lower court blocked the law, declaring it at odds with decades of Supreme Court rulings.

But the Supreme Court itself, which conservatives now control by a 6-3 majority with the addition of Rhodes College graduate Amy Coney Barrett, could decide otherwise.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves hopes they do.

“The sanctity of life. The future of our children. Mississippi is at the forefront of protecting both. And that is what is at stake in the case we have been praying the U.S. Supreme Court would decide to hear,” Reeves said. “While the debate regarding abortion continues as one of the greatest political deliberations in America, surely we can all agree we cannot allow a child able to survive on her own to be killed by the decision of another human being. And surely we should err on the side of caution when making that determination.”

Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said she also hoped Roe would be overturned.

“Nothing would please me more,” said Hyde-Smith. “Of course, I am pro-life. I’m definitely pro-life. And so there are a lot of conversations that need to be had but this is a step toward that, yes.”

But pro-choice groups are alarmed by the Court’s decision to hear the case.

“Lawmakers across the South, especially in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas, have been chipping away at abortion access for over a decade,” said Jennifer Pepper, executive director of CHOICES: Memphis Center for Reproductive Health. “If Roe was reversed, the consequences would be catastrophic, especially in the eleven states (including Mississippi and Tennessee) that currently have laws on the books that would instantaneously ban abortion. Millions of people’s reproductive freedoms are at risk.”

Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the only abortion clinic left in Mississippi.

It sued the state, challenging the abortion law.

“As the only abortion clinic left in Mississippi, we see patients who have spent weeks saving up the money to travel here and pay for childcare, for a place to stay, and everything else involved,” said Diane Derzis, the clinic’s owner. “If this ban were to take effect, we would be forced to turn many of those patients away, and they would lose their right to abortion in this state. Mississippi politicians have created countless barriers for people trying to access abortion, intentionally pushing them later into pregnancy. It’s all part of their strategy to eliminate abortion access entirely.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki didn’t address the case specifically when asked about it but said President Biden is committed to codifying Roe or making the right to an abortion a federal law states can’t tinker with.

“Over the last four years, critical rights like the right to health care, the right to choose, have been under withering and extreme attack including through draconian state laws,” said Psaki. “The President and the Vice President are devoted to ensuring every American has access to healthcare including reproductive health care.”

Barrett, who was nominated by former President Donald Trump, replaced the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon, on the Supreme Court last year, giving the conservative wing of the court a solid 6-3 majority.

When asked if she believed whether Roe v. Wade should be overturned, Barrett followed the precedent of other Supreme Court nominees during confirmation hearings in declining to answer.

The Supreme Court will likely hear the case this fall.

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