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‘It’s ... a shot in the back to women’: Activists discuss SCOTUS decision to hear Miss. abortion ban challenge

This photo shows the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, April 22, 2021.
This photo shows the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, April 22, 2021.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 12:57 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights says alarm bells should be going off for Americans who want abortion to remain safe and legal.

The center held a teleconference Monday to discuss the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to take up a case challenging Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.

“Today, the Supreme Court granted a review of a case from Mississippi that is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade … a direct challenge to literally 50 years of supreme court precedent,” CRR president Nancy Northup said.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of Center for Reproductive Rights.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of Center for Reproductive Rights.(WLBT)

Northup went on to say that Mississippi passed the law specifically as a test case to overturn Roe, the landmark case that made abortions in the country legal.

“The court cannot uphold this law in Mississippi without overturning Roe’s core holding that every pregnant person has the right to decide (their) pregnancy prior to viability.”

She wouldn’t speculate why the court took up the case or why it took so long for the justices to agree to hear it. The case has been distributed for conference multiple times before the court finally decided to hear it.

The court’s decision comes three years after Mississippi passed the Gestational Age Act in 2018, which prohibits most abortions after 15 weeks, except those in cases of medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormality, according to NBC News.

The law was challenged by the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, and was struck down by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld that decision.

Now, the decision of the high court to take up the case is worrying and even angering some abortion-rights activists.

“It has really, for the lack of a better word, pissed me off,” said Shannon Brewer, with the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “It doesn’t make sense. It’s unconstitutional and a shot in the back to women.”

About 10 percent of the women seeking services at the Jackson clinic are beyond 15 weeks. About half of the clinic’s patients come from out of state.

Brewer said that if the Supreme Court upholds Mississippi’s ban, it will eventually hurt women, who already face challenges in obtaining abortions in the Magnolia State.

“The stakes are extraordinarily high,” Northup said. “If we weaken abortion (law), it will be banned in half of the country, (including) many places in the South and Midwest,” Northup said.

She said that 24 states would outright ban abortion if Roe is weakened, including 11 states that have trigger clauses to automatically make abortion a crime if the court changes precedent.

“Alarm bells should be going off for 70 percent of … people who want abortion to stay safe and legal,” she said.

A May 6 article published by Pew Research Center shows that 59 percent of American adults believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

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