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Supreme Court's ruling in Mississippi case could affect abortion access in Alabama


The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans almost all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. This could change health care in Alabama and across the country.

Robin Marty is the director of operations at an abortion clinic in Tuscaloosa.

“This case is very significant because this is the first time that we are seeing a case come before the court, where there is a direct no-exceptions in any way, shape or form ban on abortion prior to the point of viability,” Marty said.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is positioned to be one of the highest-profile arguments of the 2021-22 term for the U.S. Supreme Court.

The reason the case is gaining so much attention is because Mississippi has asked the high court to overrule its landmark decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Marty said those earlier cases uphold Constitutional protection. Specifically, it preserves the right for women to have an abortion before the fetus can survive outside the womb.

“West Alabama Women's Center is one of the longest running and currently provides about half of the abortions in the state of Alabama, which currently has three open abortion clinics right now,” Marty said.

Sarah Zarr is the regional manager for Students for Life of America.

“Abortion is not written into the constitution. All issues not listed out in the Constitution directly should belong to the states, and that includes abortion,” she said.

Students for Life of America focuses on recruiting, training and mobilizing young people to end abortion on their campuses and in their communities. Students for Life of America is currently making the rounds with its National See Me Now Ultrasound Bus Tour. That included two stops in Alabama.

“The first was at University of Alabama,” Zarr said. “We did a live ultrasound and rally on campus. And then from there we went to Montgomery Alabama at the Alabama state capitol. And we had several speakers and pro-life leaders come and speak and we were able to show a live ultrasound in front of the state capitol.”

Marty said the Dobbs case takes aim at the Supreme Court precedent keeping states from banning abortions before a fetus becomes viable, or capable of living outside the womb.

"Viability has always been the key sign for when abortion restrictions can be put into effect,” Marty said. “After viability, there is very few cases in which a person can have an abortion prior to viability, abortion was supposed to be legal and accessible to all people.”

Marty said this case is important because it could make abortions more restrictive if the high court sides with Mississippi.

“If that happened, then I believe that the courts would say, and would expect that the country would think, 'Oh well, Roe v. Wade is not overturned because every state still officially allows abortion legally within their borders,' whereas in essence it would be overturned because we have broken this line of viability,” Marty said.

Dr. Amy Lee is a clinical associate professor at The University of Alabama's Capstone College of Nursing.

“If the Supreme Court sides with Mississippi and allows the Gestational Age Act to stand, the ruling will stand in direct conflict with the previous precedent that has been set by Roe v. Wade, and Planned Parenthood versus Casey,” she said.

Lee said this would lead to a different standard for abortions.

“This then opens the door for states to set restrictions on gestational age, that will allow states to set to pass acts that can restrict abortion so significantly as to make it impossible,” she said. “It'll be interesting to see if the court tries to redefine abortion rights through their ruling.”

Pro-choice groups are against that decision, but some pro-life activists are pushing for states to have the ultimate say on abortion access.

Alabama was just one of eight states where the message was spread with the Students for Life bus tour. Zarr said she hopes SCOTUS taking up the Dobbs case leads to an end of abortion.

“And so that we can finally abolish abortion for once and for all,” Zarr said. “That's why we've been taking this message, not just nations, capitals, but cities and campuses across the country.”

Alabama has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States. The rule makes it a crime for doctors to perform abortions at any stage of a pregnancy. That’s unless a woman's life is threatened or there is a lethal fetal anomaly.

Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
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