Amicus Brief: Mississippi’s Ban on Abortions Puts Women and Families at Risk

George Washington University faculty and other public health leaders signed an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court calling Mississippi’s law unconstitutional.

Supreme Court
Oral arguments in this case are scheduled before the Court on Dec. 1. (William Atkins/ GW Today)
September 28, 2021

Mississippi’s ban on nearly all abortions greater than 15 weeks forces women to carry pregnancies to term under adverse circumstances and increases the risk of maternal mortality and other health problems, according to a public health amicus brief filed in the United States Supreme Court on Sept. 20. 

The brief, submitted on behalf of the respondents in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is scheduled for oral argument before the Court on Dec. 1. 

The brief is signed by the American Public Health Association, The Guttmacher Institute, The Center for U.S. Policy and 547 deans, department chairs, leading academic scholars and public health professionals from across the nation, including faculty and administrators from George Washington University. 

In the amicus brief, the scholars argue that Mississippi’s abortion ban—which provides no exception for rape or incest—runs counter to constitutional law and ignores the public health risks it creates for women and their families. The organizational and individual amici joined together in the brief to urge the Supreme Court to reject Mississippi’s law as unconstitutional.

“As a pediatrician I have seen the adverse consequences to health and wellbeing when women are forced to carry unintended and unwanted pregnancies to term,” said Lynn Goldman, dean of the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health. “Mississippi’s ban, and others like it, disproportionately affects younger women, women of color and communities already struggling with high maternal mortality rates, preterm births and other health burdens. 

“They are an unwarranted intrusion on women’s constitutional rights, their privacy, and their ability to work with healthcare professionals to make the right decisions for their own health and that of their families.”

In the brief, Dr. Goldman and the other amici point out that 14 states with the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws, including Mississippi, invest the least in policies and programs aimed at improving the health of women and children. They also cite a Commonwealth Fund study of population health that ranks Mississippi last in the nation on a score that measures infant mortality, preventable death and other benchmarks of child health.

The amici call on the Supreme Court to affirm a lower court’s ruling declaring Mississippi’s law unconstitutional. They further argue that objective evidence overwhelmingly points to abortion access as a necessary tool in promoting health and in mitigating health threats to women and their families.

The brief can be accessed online. The amici are represented by attorneys Edward T. Waters, Phillip A. Escoriaza and Rosie Dawn Griffin of Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell, LLP of Washington, D.C.

The public health scholars who signed the brief did so in their individual capacities. The views expressed are their own and do not represent their affiliated institutions, organizations or employers.

Read a Milken Institute SPH blog post about the public health amicus brief here.

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