Pro-life advocates across the nation celebrated when the Supreme Court announced in mid-May that it would hear a Mississippi case on whether states can ban second-trimester abortions before the baby can survive outside his or her mother’s womb.
The state of Mississippi is specifically asking America’s highest court to allow them to enforce a voter-approved ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Gestational Age Act, passed in 2018, had been struck down by a previous lower court ruling. The Act forbade abortions after 15 weeks, except for medical emergencies or the baby’s severe physical needs.
The Supreme Court has previously ruled that states cannot restrict abortion before the age of viability. Mississippi, however, sensibly argued that that point of viability is shifting earlier and earlier in the pregnancy with medical advancements. The Court will most likely hear the case in the fall.
One reason why pro-life advocates are especially excited: after the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett last October, the Court now has six potential pro-life justices who might uphold Mississippi’s ban. “This is a landmark opportunity for the Supreme Court,” Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser told reporters. “It is time for the Supreme Court to catch up to scientific reality and the resulting consensus of the American people as expressed in elections and policy.”
The case holds the potential for the Supreme Court to reexamine the low-quality legal logic used in Roe v Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion in the United States. Even if the Court eventually overturned Roe, however, abortion would not automatically become illegal in America. Instead, decisions about the legality and regulation could be kicked back to individual states to decide for themselves.
Oregon, for example, is one of the few states with zero abortion regulations. Legally, any woman can abort her son or daughter at any stage of the pregnancy, even on or past her due date, for any reason whatsoever. She does not have to wait to do so, or be told about other options like adoption or parenting resources. She does not have to hear her child’s heartbeat or see an ultrasound photo to know how developed he or she is. Oregon taxpayers will even pay for it. No one (including relatives or fathers) can prevent an abortion. Oregon’s abortion clinics are also not held to the same quality standards as other health (or even veterinary) clinics. These regulations would likely remain unchanged by a favorable Court decision.
A positive ruling on the Gestational Age Act, in other words, is likely not to affect Oregon’s current abortion laws at all. For now, it would most likely only apply to Mississippi — but it would set the stage for other states to follow suit with their own viability restrictions in the future, including Oregon.
This outcome is something Oregon Right to Life (ORTL) hopes for fervently. “Oregon can be a tough place to be pro-life, but we should take heart and ideas from watching other states’ examples,” says ORTL executive director Lois Anderson. “Standing up for what is right is never a lost cause, no matter your ZIP code.”