As the Supreme Court convened Wednesday to hear oral arguments for a landmark case concerning a Mississippi law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the bench’s failure to strike down the ban would “erode the legitimacy” of the institution.
“As the Supreme Court hears arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it has the opportunity and responsibility to honor the Constitution, the law, and the basic truth: Every woman has the constitutional right to basic reproductive health care,” Pelosi said.
The House Speaker claimed that the state law was extreme and would disproportionately harm marginalized and minority women. The statute outlaws abortion before the 24–28 weeks of gestation fetal-viability-standard established in Roe v. Wade’s 1973 ruling. She also seemed to criticize the Mississippi law’s enforcement mechanism, which empowers private citizens to sue medical providers who perform or abet an abortion, as an intentional trap meant to pressure the high court to reevaluate the precedent set in Roe, which legalized abortion nationally.
“Mississippi’s radical abortion ban, part of a nationwide assault against women’s freedoms, targeting in particular women of color and women from low-income communities, is brazenly unconstitutional and designed to destroy Roe v. Wade. Yet again, Republicans are trying to control a woman’s most personal decisions about her body and her family and are trying to criminalize health-care professionals for providing reproductive care,” Pelosi added.
She reiterated that the decision in Roe protects the right to an abortion, despite the fact that many law scholars have long contested the legal foundations on which the case was originally argued.
“The constitutional right to an abortion has been repeatedly affirmed, and any failure to fully strike down the Mississippi ban would seriously erode the legitimacy of the Court, as the Court itself warned in its ruling in Casey, and question its commitment to the rule of law itself,” Pelosi concluded.
The question of abortion’s legality before fetal viability lies at the heart of Dobbs. In order to rule in favor of the Mississippi law, allowing a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, the Supreme Court would naturally have to overturn Roe, which allowed abortions until even later in pregnancy — until about 24 weeks’ gestation. If SCOTUS sides with Mississippi, the issue of abortion will fall to the states to adjudicate for themselves, in accordance with federalism.