One of over two dozen amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to strike down Mississippi's 15-week ban on abortions was signed by the American Public Health Association, The Guttmacher Institute, The Center for U.S. Policy, and 547 deans, department chairs, scholars, and public health professionals, including several members of the Department of Health Policy and Management. “Abortion is an essential component of reproductive health,” the brief’s authors write.
At issue in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks gestation, with no exceptions for rape or incest. The amicus brief explains that this prohibition disregards settled constitutional law and describes the significant burdens and multiple public health risks such limits create. Unwanted pregnancies carry greater health risks than those that are intended, including risks of maternal death.
Of particular concern, the authors emphasize, is the fact that “any ban will disproportionately affect young women, women of color, and low-income women who live in families and communities already vulnerable to elevated health and social risks and reduced access to necessary health care.” They note that Mississippi and several other states with the most restrictive abortion laws invest the least in policies and programs aimed at improving the health of women, children, and families.
The brief calls on the Supreme Court to affirm a lower court’s ruling that said Mississippi’s law was unconstitutional. It cites an extensive body of research documenting the harmful and inequitably distributed public health impacts of restricting access to abortion.
“Dobbs represents the most important test of the constitutional right to abortion since Roe v Wade was decided in 1973,” said Sara Rosenbaum, Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law and Policy, who led the team that developed and drafted the brief.
The public health brief was one of many pointing out the flaws and dangers of Mississippi’s law:
- Advocates for Youth and We Testify submitted a brief containing narratives of people who have had abortions, with signatures of 6,641 people who have personally experienced the procedure.
- Reproductive justice and maternal health experts led by the National Birth Equity Collaborative submitted a brief highlighting the impact of abortion restrictions on Black women and others with the capacity for pregnancy.
- The brief from abortion providers and leading health organizations “corrects misconceptions about abortion” and shares providers’ accounts of how restrictions harm abortion patients.
- The brief from medical organizations led by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists “asks the Court to recognize that Mississippi’s attempt to ban nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy is fundamentally at odds with the provision of safe and essential health care, with scientific evidence, and with medical ethics.”
- 396 members of state legislative bodies from 41 states told the Court that they can’t carry out their responsibility to protect their residents’ civil rights in the face of abortion restrictions like the one at issue here.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson on December 1, 2021, and it will likely release its decision by June 2022.