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Justice Dept. Urges Supreme Court to Uphold Roe v. Wade

  • September 21, 2021

Jackson Women’s Health sued to stop the Mississippi law, which bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, when it passed in 2018. The clinic argued that the law was unconstitutional because courts have ruled that a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy before viability, and it has relied on medical experts who have determined that viability takes place at 23 to 24 weeks.

The Justice Department agreed, arguing that the state had been “unable to identify any medical research or data that showed a fetus had reached the ‘point of viability’ at 15 weeks.” And it noted that federal district and appeals courts had sided with Jackson Women’s Health.

The department also said that in asking the Supreme Court to overrule its precedents on abortion, including Roe v. Wade, Mississippi was asking the court to violate the doctrine of stare decisis, Latin for “to stand by things decided.” That phrase is shorthand for the longstanding principle that the court is to respect precedent.

“The United States has a substantial interest in the proper interpretation of the 14th Amendment and principles of stare decisis,” the Justice Department wrote in its brief.

The Mississippi abortion law is one of several passed in recent years by conservative state legislatures that pose a challenge to Roe, a decision that Mississippi’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch, has called “egregiously wrong.” Ms. Fitch has urged the Supreme Court to overturn the decision, which underpins the constitutional right to an abortion, and to uphold the state law.

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