Earlier this week, Reagan reported that Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The fate of a 15-week abortion ban out of Mississippi, known as the Gestational Age Act, which overwhelmingly passed in the Mississippi state legislature and was signed into law in 2018, will be decided. Townhall spoke to pro-life leaders and political figures to get their insight on the case.
Gov. Tate Reeves (R-MS), who was the lieutenant governor when former Gov. Phil Bryant, also a Republican, signed the Gestational Age Act into law, issued a Facebook statement that spoke to the evolving science that provides more of an insight into the humanity of unborn children.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, one of the two Republican senators for Mississippi, told a local television station that she was "heartened by the news" and echoed Gov. Reeves' point about evolving science. "It’s just a really sensitive issue, and it’s one that I’m really glad we’re having the discussion because I think that Roe v. Wade needs to be looked at," she said, also mentioning that "with the science that we have developed since 1973, it’s just a lot different."
I am heartened by today’s news that the SCOTUS will consider MS's effort to protect unborn children. It represents an opportunity for the Court to reassess its previous rulings that have sadly led to abortion on demand being the near norm in this country. #ProLife— U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (@SenHydeSmith) May 17, 2021
The other senator, Roger Wicker, tweeted that "The case could set a major precedent for states to protect life."
BREAKING: The Supreme Court will hear a case challenging Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. This is the first time the new 6-3 conservative majority court will hear an abortion case.— Senator Roger Wicker (@SenatorWicker) May 17, 2021
The case could set a major precedent for states to protect life.https://t.co/UYyToD9h8d
Rep. Stephen Palazzo (R-MS) provided Townhall with a statement, highlighting what an opportunity this case is. "I am glad to hear that the Supreme Court has agreed to review challenges to Mississippi’s pro-life ban on abortions on late-term abortions. At 15 weeks, a baby has a heartbeat and can feel pain. These abortion procedures are cruel infanticide. This case offers a monumental opportunity for the highest court in the land to recognize a state’s right to protect unborn children. I hope to see our Supreme Court Justices speak in defense of the countless innocent lives that would be lost with the repeal of this ban," he said.
Another congressman, Rep. Michael Guest (R-MS) weighed in, noting what's changed since Roe. "It’s been almost 50 years since the Roe v. Wade decision and, in that time, increased public awareness, scientific evidence, and legal precedent has changed the way we view unborn life. Based on the evidence, I believe the Mississippi law is fair, places reasonable limitations on abortions, and meets all the legal standards to withstand judicial scrutiny. I will continue to do my part in Congress to stand firmly with our pro-life family and I have faith that the Supreme Court will rule appropriately," the congressman said.
Lila Rose, president of Live Action, also weighed in and even quoted Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe v. Wade in her statement to Townhall. "Pro-lifers everywhere are praying the Justices commit to the oath they have taken to uphold the Constitution, which lists life as our first human right, a right we can have no other rights without. If the Justices are fair-minded and able to rise above political biases, they will see what scientists have long acknowledged, that a unique, individual human life is present at the moment of fertilization. Even Justice Harry Blackmun stated in his opinion of Roe v Wade in 1973: 'If this suggestion of personhood is established, [Roe’s] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment.'"
Dr. Michael New, a research associate at the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, offered some insight to Townhall about how the justices may rule on the case:
On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Dobbs [v. Jackson Women's Health], a case involving the constitutionality of a 15 week abortion ban passed in Mississippi in 2018. The importance of this cannot be overstated. This is the first time since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an abortion case involving a gestational age limit. This moves the abortion debate onto favorable terrain for pro-lifers. Mid to late-term abortion bans poll well. Six Gallup polls taken since 1996 all found that at least 65% of Americans think abortion should be "generally illegal" during the 2nd 3 months of pregnancy.
Of course, it is difficult to predict how the Supreme Court will rule on any given case. Given the fact that Ruth Bader Ginsberg has been replaced by Amy Coney Barrett means that this law will likely receive a more favorable hearing. That said, the Supreme Court took a long time to agree to hear this case. That might indicate that there are some Republican appointed judges with misgivings about upholding this particular Mississippi law.
If the ban is upheld, pro-lifers would be energized. It would show that the strategy of supporting pro-life candidates for the Presidency resulted in a Supreme Court sympathetic to legal protections to preborn children. Pro-life state legislators in other states would likely pass similar 15 week abortion bans, confident that these bans would also be upheld by the Supreme Court.
If the ban is struck down, that will be a setback and a disappointment. However, pro-lifers should not despair. The Supreme Court will have opportunities to rule on other abortion cases. Overall, the pro-life movement has a great track record of long-term progress. Since 1980, the U.S. abortion rate has fallen by more than 50%. An important reason for this decline is because a higher percentage of unintended pregnancies are being carried to term. Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules on this particular case, pro-lifers should continue our educational, legislative, and service efforts.
Pro-life author, C. Paul Smith, who has discussed the possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade with Townhall before, also weighed in. "The decision by the Supreme Court to take the Mississippi case signals that the Court is prepared to make some modification in Roe v. Wade," he said, emphasizing that "I did not think the Court would take the case UNLESS a majority of Justices felt there was a good likelihood that it could lead to a specific modification of Roe."
He too offered various possible outcomes. "I don't believe they will totally reverse Roe," he suggested, also noting "I don't expect the Court to recognize a 'fetal right to life,' even though that is what I would prefer." Rather, "I expect the Mississippi case may expand the right to protect future life back to as soon as 15 weeks after conception (as in the Mississippi statute)," he shared.
By the time the Court decided it would hear the Dobbs v. Jackson case, it had already been rescheduled nine times, with the Court distributing it to conference over 20 times.
Curt Levey, a constitutional law attorney and the president of the Committee for Justice, offered some insight for Townhall on this.
"I think [Chief Justice John] Roberts' vote is not going to matter," he offered, and that "it's very possible the Court took the case" because they no longer need him for a conservative majority. "Depending on what the Court decides, his vote could be the sixth vote for the pro-life position," Levey said about Roberts. Instead, Levey suggested that Justice Brett Kavanaugh could be the deciding vote.
When asked how the Court might rule, Levey said he "predict[s] a pro-life victory, but a relatively narrow one, which leaves Roe intact, but eats away at it."
"The court only agreed to consider one question that was presented, which simply asks if restrictions before viability are a violation of the constitution," Reagan had also noted. This may actually speak to the likelihood of the Court handing down a decision to allow the law to stand when they are ruling on a more narrow issue.
"It definitely matters," Levey noted. "It is a good thing in that eroding Roe without overturning it is very much an option."
The Court will hear Dobbs v. Jackson in the fall term.