On September 20, 2021, the National Women’s Law Center and co-counsel Shearman & Sterling, along with 72 other organizations committed to gender equality, filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization supporting the right to abortion. In this case, the last remaining Mississippi abortion provider challenged a state law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks. The ban defies nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent, going back to Roe v. Wade, that recognizes that the Constitution guarantees each person the right to decide whether to continue a pre-viability pregnancy.
In our brief, we explain that the devastating impact of allowing a pre-viability abortion ban to stand – or overturning the right to abortion explicitly – denies the liberty and equality of women and all people who can become pregnant. The brief emphasizes how gutting or overturning the right to abortion undermines the bodily integrity and personal autonomy of people forced to carry a pregnancy to term, the ability of people who can become pregnant to participate equally in social and economic life, and the ability of women and all who can become pregnant to determine their life’s course free from sex stereotypes regarding the capabilities and expected social roles of women. The brief also responds to Mississippi’s argument that the advances in contraceptive access and gender equality obviates the need for the right to abortion. The brief highlights continued systemic barriers to contraceptive care, the persistence of economic gender disparities, the high costs of childbirth and parenting, discrimination and other burdens imposed on pregnant and parenting workers and students, and barriers to accessing child care. The brief also explains how Mississippi’s own abysmal gender disparities render hollow any argument that advances in gender equality remove the need for the right to abortion.