Feb. 8, 2022 - The outcome of hotly-contested abortion laws in Texas and Mississippi could have major ramifications across the country, from reproductive rights and Roe v. Wade to the political arena, according to UH Law Center Professor Seth J. Chandler.
In his lecture, Abortion Law: Texas, Mississippi, and the Future, Chandler outlined the intricacies of Texas Senate Bill 8, Mississippi’s 2018 Gestational Age Act, and the possible outcomes. Held virtually by UH Law Center recently, the lecture offered attendees an opportunity to learn about closely watched cases currently moving through the court system. He was introduced by UH Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes.
“In legal academia, it’s very important for us to provide the public with information on tough topics dealing with law and policy,” said Baynes.
“Abortion, or reproductive rights, have been a lot in news a lot over the past few months because of two principal cases. The first revolves around the Texas statute SB8 [Senate Bill 8], which was enacted and bans abortions as early as six weeks, before many know that they are pregnant,” Baynes said. “The law took effect, as the Supreme Court did not respond to an emergency appeal by the abortion providers for technical, legal reasons. The law has an unusual enforcement mechanism, giving individuals the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past the six-week point.”
The second case involves a 2018 Mississippi law. It bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case, known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, on Dec. 1 and is expected to make a ruling by the end of June.
“What we have going on right now is a multi-front war,” said Chandler, Law Foundation Professor of Law and a faculty member with UHLC’s Health Law & Policy Institute.
Texas’ law has been “very effective” in stopping post-heartbeat abortions, Chandler said, resulting “in some women not having those abortions, having to go to other states in order to have them performed, or possibly having them performed illegally in Texas.”
Furthermore, some states have seen Texas’ approach to banning abortions as a “clever idea” and are contemplating “copycat laws”, according to Chandler. For example, California lawmakers are considering a law that allows for private lawsuits against gun manufacturers and other entities in the gun trade.
The “second front” of the war relates to Mississippi’s 2018 Gestational Age Act, which Chandler called “a frontal assault on Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.” This is in contrast to SB8’s “side door” approach to stopping abortion, he said.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Mississippi law could impact many states, at least half of which are likely to impose “very serious restrictions on abortion” if it was upheld, Chandler said.
Outside of the abortion battle, Chandler said he believes these cases will reverberate in “the political arena,” from the 2022 elections to the debate on court packing and term limits to the filibuster dispute.
“If you believe very strongly in abortion rights, the longer this case goes on, the more rights are denied,” Chandler said. “And if you believe that abortion is murder, the more babies are saved.”
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