A Jackson-based think tank issued a bill Monday that seeks to clear up a unique legal problem in Mississippi: abortion being legal and illegal at the same time.
The Mississippi Center for Public Policy filed a lawsuit Monday in an attempt to get the state Supreme Court to overturn its 1998 decision declaring the Mississippi Constitution a right to abortion.
That decade-old decision – Pro Choice Mississippi v. Fordice – has clashed with two new state laws that took effect this summer after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which established the state’s right to abortion.
After the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in late June overturned Roe v. Wade, two Mississippi laws took effect. One banned all abortions except in cases of miscarriage and when the mother’s life was in danger. The second law prohibits all abortions except in cases of emergency.
But officials at the Mississippi Center for Public Policy say those two laws conflict with a state Supreme Court ruling that says the state constitution provides a right to abortion. The federal judge is trying to ensure that the Pro Choice Mississippi v. Fordice in 1998.
“This legal uncertainty has placed Mississippi physicians in an untenable ‘Catch-22,'” the center’s press release said. “…Whether elective abortions are ‘legal’ in Mississippi remains the Mississippi Supreme Court’s opinion in Fordice.”
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The US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade came in a case brought by Mississippi and argued by state Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s office. The landmark case — Dobbs v. Jackson Women Health Organization — the state’s only abortion clinic closed.
“In the Dobbs case, Mississippi won a major victory for civil rights and the rule of law,” said Aaron Rice, director of the Mississippi Justice Institute, which is the legal arm of the Mississippi Center for Project Policy. “It’s time to finish the job and protect the right to life in the government that defeated Roe.”
The case was filed in Hinds County Chancery Court. The news release said it will be up to the state Supreme Court to decide whether to overturn the ruling that restricts abortion in the Mississippi Constitution.
Immediately following the United States Supreme Court’s decision, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, then providing abortion services in Jackson, filed a lawsuit in the Hinds County Chancery Court attempting to block the introduction of laws prohibiting abortion in Mississippi. The Mississippi Court of Justice, arguing for the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, said the state’s abortion laws don’t stand up to a Mississippi Supreme Court ruling that says the Law granted a right to abortion.
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In a separate ruling in early July, Chancery Judge Debbra Halford of Meadville, who was appointed to hear the case by the state Supreme Court, did not block the law that prohibits abortions. One of his primary reasons for not blocking the legislation was because he said the current Supreme Court would overturn a ruling that made abortion legal in the Mississippi Constitution.
The Mississippi Supreme Court appealed to the Supreme Court. But the state’s highest court refused to take the case on an expedited schedule. Amidst the chaos, Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization closed, and the Mississippi Supreme Court issued an appeal.
Now the Mississippi Institute for Public Policy is trying to rehabilitate the case.
“We will review this lawsuit and determine whether we should intervene,” said Rob McDuff, an attorney for the Mississippi Department of Justice for Women’s Health Organization of Jackson.
The Mississippi Justice Institute has brought the lawsuit against the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, according to a news release.