WASHINGTON (BNM) – On Dec. 1, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments for the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. The case mirrors the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade and could affect the future of the pro-life movement as the government continues to focus on abortion rights.
Jackson Women's Health Organization is the last abortion clinic in Mississippi. In that state, abortions are banned after 15 weeks of pregnancy under the threat of severe penalties for any care provider who ignores the law. JWHO provides contraceptives and abortion access to women in Mississippi. It has ignored the law and is fighting the state over abortion rights.
In the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case, Mississippi asks the supreme court to overturn Roe v. Wade and uphold the ban on abortions past 15 weeks. The case will be the Supreme Court's first ruling on the constitutionality of pre-viability abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973. In that earlier case, the court decided that the right to abortion belonged to the individual and not the government.
The Baptist New Mexican asked Brent Leatherwood, interim president for Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty, to comment on the Dobbs case. In his response he said, “On December 1st, the nine justices will have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revisit the Court’s disastrous ruling in Roe v. Wade… Christians have long pleaded the case that America must recognize the inherent dignity of our most vulnerable neighbors. This case gives us another chance to do so and the Court should not miss this opportunity.” The ERLC is the voice of Southern Baptists before national leaders, members of congress, the federal judiciary and other audiences influential in guiding the nation. The full ERLC statement follows this article.
Ethel Maharg, the executive director of Right to Life New Mexico, said that it will continue to fight abortion laws no matter how the Supreme Court rules on the case. "We are going to fight until we see this come to an end,” Maharg said. “Whether bills are passed and signed or not, we are going to fight abortion in our state."
"The overturning of Roe would basically throw abortion back to the states to decide. And, our state has - sadly - spoken very loudly and clearly [in favor of abortion]," Lori Bova said. Bova serves as Board of Trustees chairwoman for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission and serves on the Baptist Convention of New Mexico's Christian Life Committee. "The Dobbs case would really be the beginning of a new battle to protect life within our state," she said.
In February of 2021, New Mexico Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill into law that repealed a 1969 New Mexico abortion statute. The former statute only allowed abortion in instances of incest, rape that was reported, or a pregnancy that put a women or fetus at medical risk. The new bill allows abortion within the state without any major restrictions, as long as the clinic is licensed by the state.
Maharg is optimistic about the fight against abortion. "I believe with all my heart that the pro-life movement is gaining …. The dominos are starting to fall," she said. She referenced the Texas abortion ban and the Dobbs v. Jackson Woman's Health Organization cases as evidence of the growing pro-life movement.
The Texas abortion law that bans abortions past six weeks within the state went into effect, Sept. 1. Since then, Texas women have been coming to New Mexico clinics for abortion assistance. According to data from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains reported in a Santa Fe New Mexican article, New Mexico clinics provided abortions to an average of 8.8 Texas women weekly before the Texas abortion law went into effect. During the ban’s first week, New Mexico clinics had provided abortions for 20 Texas women, with 64 additional abortions scheduled.
President Biden’s administration has continued to fight pro-life advocacy, including requesting that the Supreme Court block the Texas abortion law. The administration is also looking to drop the Hyde Amendment from its 2022 federal budget. The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, banned federal funding to pay for abortions through Medicaid. The Hyde Amendment has been upheld every year since 1976 through Congress, but the amendment now risks being abolished. "The whole situation just shows you how pervasive the culture of death is in our country and very much so our state," Bova stated.
"It is encouraging that some of these cases are making it all the way to the supreme court, and our hope would be - with the balance of justices right now - that there would possibly be a favorable outcome in the Dobbs case," Bova said. Historically, the Supreme Court has refused to hear a case such as Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. However, former President Trump's appointment with Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett has put the court in a position politically to hear such cases.
A ruling from the SCOTUS in favor of Dobbs would overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states with even earlier protections against abortion to enforce their laws. Possibly, 24 states could likely tighten restrictions against abortion based on their current stance on the subject and political makeup.
"The issue is large, but we know God is bigger. I keep praying that in New Mexico, we will start closing these windows, and I think that's what Dobbs does. It starts narrowing those windows," Bova said.
Full Statement from the ERLC
On December 1st, the nine justices will have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revisit the Court's disastrous ruling in Roe v. Wade. In fact, we have submitted a brief to the Court pleading with them to completely overrule both Roe and the later decision, Casey, that cemented the abortion regime in this nation. Over 60 million lives have been lost because of these wrongheaded decisions. That is a horrific statistic. And it is all the more galling because, among the many responsibilities of government is protecting innocent life from harm. How much more important is that responsibility when it comes to protecting preborn lives that cannot even speak for themselves? Christians have long pleaded the case that America must recognize the inherent dignity of our most vulnerable neighbors. This case gives us another chance to do so and the Court should not miss this opportunity.