Supreme Court case could have cascading effect on abortion
Judges may hold off evaluating protections for unborn babies until the nation’s highest court rules
The Supreme Court’s May decision to take up the case of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban is having a ripple effect in lower courts. Judges considering cases out of Utah and South Carolina may hit pause on lawsuits against pro-life laws in those states to see if the high court justices’ ruling gives them guidance.
The question at the heart of the Mississippi case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is whether or not states can protect unborn babies from abortion before they are likely to survive outside the womb. The Mississippi law protects babies after 15 weeks of gestation—roughly nine weeks before an unborn infant is commonly considered “viable.”
Utah’s law safeguards babies at 18 weeks, also before viability. U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups acknowledged that the question before the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson would likely affect the outcome of his case. He said he would make a decision on whether to put the case on hold after getting input from Planned Parenthood and the Utah attorney general’s office.
Waddoups has already delayed the case once before in late 2019 while he waited for the Supreme Court to rule on whether abortion providers could sue on behalf of women who would supposedly be harmed by pro-life laws. In that instance, he allowed the state of Utah to continue collecting evidence in defense of its protections for the unborn (a process known as discovery) until the Supreme Court decided the case over Louisiana’s requirement that abortionists have hospital-admitting privileges.
In South Carolina, U.S. District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis hasn’t decided whether to put on hold a case over the state’s law protecting unborn babies with a detectable heartbeat, which also happens before that viability cutoff. Planned Parenthood argues state attorneys shouldn’t be allowed to continue the discovery process if she does decide to wait.
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