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TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck announced today that New Jersey has joined a multi-state coalition in filing an amicus brief that asks the U.S. Supreme Court to deny Mississippi’s request that it invalidate its landmark 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade, and declare broadly that there is no constitutionally-protected right to an abortion.
Mississippi enacted a law in 2018 that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. As such, the Mississippi law violates a constitutionally-guaranteed right to pre-viability abortions provided for in Roe v. Wade and other Supreme Court decisions for decades now. But Mississippi is now asking the Supreme Court to eliminate that constitutional protection.
“The health and safety of women across the country is under attack as states likes Mississippi and Texas work feverishly to overturn Roe v. Wade,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Severely limiting choice and restricting access to reproductive health care jeopardizes the lives of women and their families and will disproportionately affect our communities of color. We are firm in our commitment to protect reproductive rights and will do everything in our power to preserve these constitutional freedoms.”
“Today New Jersey is standing firm in its support of reproductive freedom,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “But this case isn’t just about abortion. It’s part of a broader, coordinated attack on our constitutional rights. If the Supreme Court decides that the Constitution no longer protects the right to an abortion, other rights will be at risk next. We can’t let that happen.”
Jackson Women’s Health Center, the only licensed abortion care provider in Mississippi, filed a lawsuit in March 2018 challenging Mississippi’s abortion ban. Subsequently, both a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit blocked the law from taking effect. Mississippi then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear argument on the question of whether state laws that ban abortions prior to fetal viability – the ability to live outside the womb – are unconstitutional.
In a brief submitted to the Court in July, Mississippi took direct aim at Roe v. Wade. Specifically, Mississippi asked the Court to not only uphold its own abortion law, but to abandon Roe v. Wade altogether and hold that the Constitution in no way protects the right to seek an abortion.
In their amicus brief filed today, New Jersey and the other coalition states ask the Supreme Court to hold fast to its long standing “bright-line constitutional rule” that states are prohibited from banning abortions before the point of viability.
The brief asserts that coalition states have a “powerful interest” in preserving the Roe v. Wade precedent, because the ruling takes into consideration state interests while at the same time safeguarding individuals’ “ability to make one of the most consequential, intimate and properly private decisions” they will ever confront.
The coalition amicus brief filed today makes three main points:
- Mississippi’s ban on pre-viability abortions is, and should remain, unconstitutional: In Roe v. Wade, the Court held that before the point at which a fetus becomes viable, the Constitution does not allow a state to bar a pregnant person from deciding whether to carry to term. The Court has repeatedly reaffirmed that precedent over the last half-century and should do so again, as the Mississippi law enacted in 2018 plainly contravenes this precedent.
- Revising the viability timeline and allowing bans on abortion such as the one enacted by Mississippi would harm the coalition states and their residents: If the Court’s ban on pre-viability abortion restrictions is struck down and the Mississippi law is upheld, many pregnant individuals would be forced to either travel to another state to seek care, or carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. That would impose substantial costs on states and local governments and jeopardize people’s health—including the health of coalition state residents who may face greater wait times to seek care or may have temporarily relocated to Mississippi or other states with similar laws.
- The court should not consider whether to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion: The original question on which the court agreed to hear argument was: “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” That is a narrower question than the one Mississippi is now raising about whether the constitution protects any right to an abortion, so the Court should not entertain the broader question.
Today’s announcement follows the announcement last week that New Jersey has joined a multi-state coalition amicus brief supporting the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent lawsuit seeking to prevent Texas from effectively banning most abortions in the state.
The Texas law bans most abortions at approximately six weeks. It contains no exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape, sexual abuse, incest, or for pregnancies involving a fetal defect incompatible with life after birth.