/Mississippi argues 15-week abortion ban in federal appeals court

Mississippi argues 15-week abortion ban in federal appeals court

Brewer worked at the clinic for almost two decades before establishing the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. It is currently open and accepting patients. This confusion is partly due to the recent Mississippi abortion restriction to land in federal Court. Brewer was one of the observers who listened to attorneys in a Mississippi case regarding a ban on abortions after 15-weeks of pregnancy. This could have implications for Louisiana and Texas. These states make up the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a common stop for civil rights cases from these state, often en route towards the U.S. Supreme Court. Brewer, along with 75 others, leaned in to hear the lawyers representing the clinic and the state’s case in New Orleans during the 45-minute hearing. This is the first Mississippi abortion restriction that has reached the federal appeals stage. It was previously allowed to continue to be open in 2014 while a case regarding admitting privileges laws was pending. This restriction required that abortion providers have admitting privileges at the local hospital. It was eventually struck down. All laws prohibiting abortion prior to viability, most commonly in the form bans after a specific week of pregnancy, have been overturned by the federal appeals court. Although the 5th Circuit is not currently hearing the case for the 15-week period, it did overturn a Louisiana ban from 1992. Attorneys from Mississippi’s attorney general’s office represented the state and argued that the 2018 “The Act to Prohibit Abortion After 15 Weeks” legislation, which was the most restrictive in abortion law in the country at the moment, “not per se” is a prohibition. According to them, the law isn’t a ban, but a restriction that does not create an undue burden for women who seek abortions. Beth Klausmann, a Texas attorney, claimed that a lower court should allow evidence showing the state does not believe the ban of 15 weeks is an undue burden. Klausmann stated that the clinic admitted they only offer abortions 2 to 3 times per week. Klausmann also questioned whether women who want to have abortions after 15-weeks are required to do so under state law or due to clinic preferences about when to open. Hillary Schneller, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, countered by arguing that Mississippi law does not affect the clinic’s choice as to when it sees patients. “Mississippi’s abortion restrictions make it harder for women to have an abortion sooner – the 24-hour mandatory deferral law, and abortion facility licensing schemes that have made a state only one clinic – so it’s a little disingenuous talking about the different reasons women might seek abortions after 15 week, when the state has not done anything to help them or support their decisions. Brewer, the clinic’s director, said that the argument by the state is part of larger misinformation problems We are open every day, but only three to four patients a week. All these (attorneys), are well aware of why we only see patients for that number of days. Our doctors are not local doctors, and fly in from far away to work. She said that we can’t access local doctors because (anti-abortion demonstrators) stalk their homes calling their families. She said that local doctors are eager to support the clinic but that the hostile climate makes it difficult. There are two main questions that arise in many court cases regarding abortion access: the viability and undue burden of a fetus. The attorneys for Mississippi wanted to present evidence in support of the state’s interest in regulating abortion. This included maternal health and regulating medicine. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves dismissed the state’s evidence citing one legal question. Does the law prohibit some pre-viability abortions? Both sides agree that it does. He therefore permanently blocked the evidence due to a long-standing Supreme Court precedent. The state also wanted to present new evidence regarding maternal health and fetal discomfort, which they claim has changed significantly in recent years. Also, the state argued that the lower court should have considered whether the ban of 15 weeks was an undue burden. Most medical professionals reject the idea that a fetus could feel pain before conception. The Mississippi’s maternal mortality review committee meticulously examines maternal health and explains why Mississippi women experience 1.2 times the national rate for pregnancy-related deaths. According to the most recent data, none of the 136 maternal deaths have been linked to abortion. Two landmark Supreme Court decisions dictate abortion litigation. Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in 1973. This established women’s right under the 14th Amendment to have an abortion. Planned Parenthood in v. Casey affirmed Roe in 1992 but added some balance. Casey created a new framework called the “undue burden test” and stated that states can restrict abortion but cannot prevent women from seeking one. This refers to when a fetus is capable of living on its own without the help of the mother. This usually occurs around 24 or 25 weeks into a woman’s first pregnancy. Casey’s central holding states that while the state’s interest in regulating abortion is important, they don’t outweigh a woman’s right to choose until a certain stage in her pregnancy. Roe and Casey have been challenged in a variety of ways, including the current 15-week case. The state also passed a six-week ban this year, which was in addition to the 2012 licensing regulations that were challenged and threatened to close Jackson Women’s Health. The state temporarily blocked it and is currently awaiting appeal in the same 5th Circuit, which heard oral arguments last week for the 15-week case. The state’s arguments revolve around this so-called distinction. They argue that this is not a ban but a restriction. Legally, abortion cannot be banned by states, but they have the right to restrict it. Judge Reeves ruled that this case was a ban as it would prevent some women from having an abortion. He also tossed the restriction argument. The only legal question that remains is, “Is it before viability?” If it is, then it is unconstitutional. Viability is a medical function. The state seeks to intervene in the viability debate by claiming it is not the right argument to be used. Instead, the proper legal question revolves about undue load: Does this law place undue pressure on women who are seeking abortions? They claim that they weren’t allowed to present evidence that the law isn’t. Reeves ruled that the Center for Reproductive Rights representing the clinic argued that any law restricting a woman’s right to seek pre-viability abortions based on how long she has been pregnant is de facto a ban on women who have reached that time. According to the state, too few women are seeking abortions after 15 weeks in order for the law not to be considered an undue burden. Court briefings reveal that 90 women sought abortions in 2017 between 15 and 16 weeks. Advocates argue that data shows that almost all women who seek abortions in Mississippi leave the state between 15 and 16 weeks. This makes it difficult to estimate how many Mississippi women will be affected. Each woman is protected by her individual right to choose whether or not to have an abortion prior to viability. It doesn’t really matter how many women this ban affects. Schneller, a clinic attorney, stated that each woman being prevented from making this decision is an insurmountable obstacle. Attorneys for Mississippi declined to speak with me for this story but stated in an email statement that they believed the Supreme Court’s decision on Planned Parenthood. Casey required that the district court consider evidence in the State’s best interest in determining the constitutionality Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks. The decision of the district court not to consider the State’s interest was an error that deprived the State the chance to create a full factual record to evaluate the constitutionality Mississippi’s law. The Attorney General’s Office requested the Fifth Circuit to correct the error and return the case back to the district court to develop a full factual report.” Schneller claims that the law is unconstitutional and a ban. She stated that the alternative to this law is for states to be able to force women into a pregnancy without their consent before it becomes viable. This would obviously destroy any guarantee of autonomy or liberty. “I believe that Mississippi passed a 15-week ban, followed by a 6-week ban. This shows that they want to subjugate women’s fundamental rights to perpetual re-litigation even though the court has made it clear that these bans will not be upheld in court.” To support this important work and continue to tell this story, you can make a recurring contribution today to celebrate our Spring Member Drive.