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Parson, congressional delegates urge SCOTUS to give states power over abortion

As the legal battle over Mississippi’s abortion law continues, Gov. Mike Parson and Republican members of Congress are calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to grant states the ability to regulate abortion.

Parson joined 11 other Republican governors on a brief in the pending case over a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks, urging the court to overturn Roe v. Wade and subsequent rulings granting protections for abortion. The group argued states should have the ability to regulate the practice rather than leaving the issue to the federal government.

“The judicial constitutionalization of abortion represents an unwarranted intrusion into the sovereign sphere of the states,” they wrote. “Returning to the states the plenary authority to regulate abortion without federal interference would restore the proper (i.e., constitutional) relationship between the states and the federal government.”

“Rather than creating a federal constitutional right, the court should leave regulating abortion to the states, where the people may act through the democratic process,” they continued. 

A similar Missouri law is awaiting consideration by a federal court as well: Signed into law by Parson in 2019, the bill sought to ban abortions after eight weeks. It included “nestled” components placing restrictions at 14, 18, and 20 weeks and did not allow for exemptions for rape or incest survivors. The bill also sought to ban abortions solely based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome. 

The measure was blocked by a federal judge the day before it would have taken effect and was further stymied by a three-judge panel last month. Attorney General Eric Schmitt attempted to bring the case before the nation’s highest court, but the appellate court opted to reconsider it in full. 

The brief in the Mississippi case referenced a 1991 U.S. Supreme Court case concerning the Missouri constitution, in which the court held “our Constitution establishes a system of dual sovereignty between the states and federal government.”

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster led the coalition. Governors from Texas, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, and Oklahoma joined the filing. 

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt joined Congressmen Billy Long, Sam Graves, Blaine Luetkemeyer, and Jason Smith alongside Congresswomen Ann Wagner and Vicky Hartzler on a similar plea Thursday. In total, 228 Republican lawmakers from 40 states joined the brief

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley and Republican colleagues filed a similar brief earlier this week, saying federal regulations were “usurping the constitutional prerogatives of the legislature.” 

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch also filed her opinion, advocating for the court to overturn Roe and arguing nothing in the Constitution grants the right to an abortion. 

Decided in 1973, Roe v. Wade established the federal 24-week timeline for an abortion to take place and prohibited states from imposing stricter abortion laws. The ruling was upheld by Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey in 1992. 

Planned Parenthood has opposed the Mississippi law since its passage, accusing it of putting individual rights in the hands of politicians rather than the individual.

“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Gov. Parson is forcing his state’s post-Roe reality onto Mississippians,” said Yamelsie Rodriguez, president of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri. “We’ve warned about this day for a long time. If only Gov. Parson could spend the same amount of energy curbing the COVID-19 surge, which could actually save lives and improve worsening public health outcomes in our state.”

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