|RICHMOND (September 20, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 24 state attorneys general in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold its precedents protecting a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. In an amicus brief filed with the Court, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that Mississippi’s abortion ban is unconstitutional and should remain unconstitutional. In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that the Constitution does not permit States to prohibit a woman from deciding before viability whether to carry her pregnancy to term. That ruling was affirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 and reaffirmed in the following decades. In today’s brief, the coalition argues that Mississippi’s ban is unconstitutional under settled law, and that the Court should continue to uphold this well-established precedent.
In May, Attorney General Herring committed to defending abortion access following the U.S. Supreme Court’s potentially devastating decision to take up this lawsuit challenging Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban that has the potential to overturn landmark cases Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood.
“Mississippi’s abortion ban is no more than a blatant attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, which has protected a person’s constitutional right to an abortion for decades,” said Attorney General Herring. “Given the conservative makeup of the current Supreme Court, their decision to take up this case is incredibly concerning and has the potential to upend landmark abortion rights cases. I remain committed to fighting back against this wave of restrictive abortion bans that are being passed across this country and I am proud to stand with my colleagues in filing this amicus defending Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion.”
In March 2018, the governor of Mississippi signed into law what was then the strictest abortion ban in the nation. The law prohibits abortion at 15 weeks, with few exceptions, even in cases of rape or incest. A federal district court judge struck down the law stating that Mississippi “chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional…to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.” The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling.
Mississippi’s attempt to undo decades of Supreme Court precedent comes amidst years of attempts by other states to strip Americans of their right to decide what is best for their bodies and futures. This year alone, 10 states have enacted restrictive bans on abortions. In total, 16 states have now enacted pre-viability abortion bans.
In October 2019, Attorney General Herring filed an amicus brief in this lawsuit in support of Mississippi’s last abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, arguing that Mississippi’s law enacted a near-total ban on abortions. In the amicus, Attorney General Herring asserted that the law restricts women from exercising their constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy under Roe v. Wade. He further argued that contrary to Mississippi’s claims, its near-total ban would result in worse maternal health outcomes.
Attorney General Herring has been a strong advocate for women’s healthcare and reproductive rights in Virginia. Two weeks ago, Attorney General Herring led a coalition of 21 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in Planned Parenthood South Atlantic v. Wilson arguing that South Carolina’s six-week abortion ban harms women’s healthcare and a lower court’s ruling blocking the law should be upheld. Last week, he filed an amicus brief in support of the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) challenge to Texas’ new unconstitutional six-week ban on abortions. Attorney General Herring’s brief specifically supports DOJ’s motion for a preliminary injunction of the law, that went into effect earlier this month. He has stood against attacks on women’s reproductive freedom and has fought in court to defend women’s access to comprehensive healthcare services, including abortion and birth control. He issued an official advisory opinion that helped protect women’s health clinics from expensive and medically unnecessary retrofits that would have closed many Virginia clinics that offer abortion services. Attorney General Herring successfully fought alongside his colleagues in the Whole Women’s Health case to strike down Texas’s onerous, medically unnecessary regulations and he has fought for women’s reproductive justice around the country, working with colleagues to oppose medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion in Ohio and Alabama. Additionally, he continuously fought against the Trump Administration’s attacks on women’s access to the full range of reproductive health care services and contraception options.
Joining Attorney General Herring in filing today’s amicus are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia.