Hibben: A Roe v. Wade Reversal Could Mean the End of an Unbiased Supreme Court


Sydney Stam

(Graphic by Sydney Stam | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Aya Hibben, Opinion Writer


This December, the Supreme Court will start hearing arguments of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenged a Mississippi law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion provider in the state, succeeded in blocking the law. Mississippi has asked the Supreme Court to decide if pre-viability bans violate the Constitution.

Unlike the controversial vigilante-enforced Texas abortion ban, Mississippi would directly enforce this law. While federal courts have thrown out Mississippi’s attempts to defend the law, the Supreme Court has decided to hear the state’s arguments, a concerning step that might risk the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Mississippi’s ban directly violates over 50 years of precedent that protects a woman’s right to choose. The Supreme Court should reverse Mississipi’s law to protect women and all persons from government interference in our personal health decisions.

Mississippi’s Laws against Abortion

Mississippi’s 2018 law blocks all abortions before 15 weeks and has another blocked ban for abortions after 6 weeks. This goes against the decision in Roe v. Wade to protect a woman’s right to choose before viability, which can range between 24-28 weeks. The Court has said that restrictions can be set into law only after viability.

However, Mississippi has other severe abortion restrictions. The state has only one abortion provider, and in 2017, 91% of Mississippi women had no access to this clinic. Mississippi, like Utah, also enacted a trigger ban would immediately ban all abortions if Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Mississippi requires individuals to make two in-person trips to the clinic, with a 24-hour separation. To receive an abortion, you must have the financial ability to travel to and stay near an abortion clinic for 72 hours, severely impacting those of low-income status. You must then undergo an ultrasound and view the image before agreeing to an abortion. This tactic aims to traumatize and harass patients into changing their minds.

Surgical abortion, an incredibly safe and effective method of abortion, is also banned. And the state contradicts itself and requires clinics to meet unnecessary standards, a reason why so many clinics have closed. And those seeking medical exceptions, or exceptions in cases of rape or incest, face limited flexibility. Mississippi’s 15-week ban doesn’t have exceptions for cases of rape or incest, risking children’s health in addition to adult women’s.

What the Court Could Decide

For decades, the Supreme Court has protected a woman’s right to her privacy in regards to both abortion and birth control. The Court has struck down pre-viability bans in several states, including Utah.

The undue burden test was first referred to in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and is used to determine the constitutionality of an abortion restriction. The court wrote, “A provision of law is invalid if its purpose … is to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.”

However, the court has changed tremendously since those decisions. It has shifted to a conservative majority, especially with the additions of Trump appointees Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch. Justice Barrett came under fire because of her past opinions supporting the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Gorsuch both voted for a strict Louisiana abortion ban to proceed. A small 5-4 majority struck down the Louisiana ban before Justice Barrett’s arrival.

Abortion advocates have indicated that this decision directly asks the court to either protect or reverse Roe v. Wade. And with this conservative majority, all abortion precedent could be reversed.

What This Means for the Future

There are severe implications of this case. Millions of women will lose access to safe, private health decisions if abortion is banned. There’s no evidence that illegalizing or restricting abortion reduces abortions. Instead, it only reduces safe access to them. Illegality forces women to use dangerous, unsafe methods that risk their health and general wellbeing.

When the Supreme Court legalized abortion, the number of unsafe illegal abortions procedures fell by over 100,000. Unless we want to go back in time, we must remember our country’s dark history of the lives lost in botched back-alley abortions.

The Supreme Court has enormous power to strike down or continue controversial law. Their decisions can be independent of the wants of the American people. If the court decides to lean into its own political opinions rather than following legal precedent, it could react the same way to any political topic it disagrees with. If the court feels it is necessary to strike down protected precedent so easily, there could be a shift in the amount of power the “least dangerous branch” possesses.

A politically swayed court could strike down any legislative or executive decision it dislikes regardless of public opinion. Even if you don’t support abortion, this decision impacts everyone. It risks the privacy and protection of healthcare decisions for citizens, and it also could mean the beginning of an even more divisive political climate for this country.


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