Last spring, a federal court struck down a Mississippi law that effectively bans abortions as soon as 15 weeks after a patient’s last menstrual period. Mississippi responded to that decision with a new ban — one banning abortions as soon as six weeks after the last period. The Mississippi law is one of several recently enacted by state lawmakers hostile to Roe v. Wade.
Needless to say, Judge Carlton Reeves, who handed down a decision Friday evening blocking the new ban, is not happy.
“Here we go again,” Judge Reeves’ opinion begins. The opinion in Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs is quite brief, only eight pages, because it does not have to be much longer given the state’s defiance in the face of a previous court order.
Indeed, the section explaining why Mississippi’s new ban must be halted is just three paragraphs long, and it really can be summarized in just one. (In this paragraph, the term “lmp” refers to the number of weeks since a menstrual period.)
This Court previously found the 15-week ban to be an unconstitutional violation of substantive due process because the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that women have the right to choose an abortion prior to viability, and a fetus is not viable at 15 weeks lmp. If a fetus is not viable at 15 weeks lmp, it is not viable at 6 weeks lmp. The State conceded this point. The State also conceded at oral argument that this Court must follow Supreme Court precedent. Under Supreme Court precedent, plaintiffs are substantially likely to succeed on the merits of this claim.
So that’s the good news for abortion supporters. The bad news is that, while Reeves is correct about the present state of Supreme Court precedent, that precedent is likely to change in very short order — thanks to an anti-abortion majority on the Supreme Court. Mississippi’s ban cannot take effect now, but it will likely go into effect in a year or so once the Supreme Court guts what remains of Roe v. Wade.