If justices roll back Roe, observers predict swift changes to abortion law in West Virginia

West Virginians across the political spectrum are closely watching a Supreme Court case that could dramatically change abortion policy across the country.

Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court this morning heard oral arguments in over a state law in Mississippi. What the justices decide could roll back what was established in the earlier Roe vs. Wade case, as well as the related Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.

Mississippi’s law established a statewide ban on abortion after 15 weeks. That’s weeks earlier than what Roe established, with viability at 23 or 24 weeks — or longer in cases where the patient’s life or health is at risk.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization for about two hours this morning. Options range from fully overturning Roe to coming short of that but upholding a 15-week standard — to what appears to be the least likely possibility: striking down the Mississippi law.

Most analysts who watch the conservative-leaning court closely believe the most likely outcome is upholding the Mississippi law, with the most conservative justices sounding like they are prepared to roll back Roe entirely.

John Roberts

Chief Justice John Roberts, who often tries to strike a balance while moving toward incremental change, said the limit of 15 weeks was not a “dramatic departure” from viability and gave women enough time to make the choice to end their pregnancies.

“The thing that is at issue before us today is 15 weeks,” Roberts said.

Patrick Morrisey

West Virginia’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, joined a 24-state brief supporting the Mississippi law. The brief urged the Supreme Court to roll back the national standard set by Roe and to leave policy to the states.

“It is long past time to overturn the flawed Supreme Court decisions that have led to the tragic deaths of over 60 million unborn children,” Morrisey stated today.

“Our Constitution should never have been interpreted in a way that lets it override the states’ compelling interest to protect innocent life. I am proud to join with Mississippi and other voices who are advocating for the sanctity of human life.”

Kayla Kessinger

Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, was among those who gathered at the U.S. Supreme Court today. In social media posts, Kessinger said abortion policy should be left to the states.

“I was honored to represent West Virginia on the steps of the Supreme Court today as we asked the justices to help us legislate,” said Kessinger, who serves as one of the majority whips in the House of Delegates.

Margaret Chapman Pomponio

On the other side of the issue, advocates for women’s reproductive rights expressed alarm over the court’s impending decision. Margaret Chapman-Pomponio, chief executive of West Virginia Free, said a ruling in favor of Mississippi is likely to prompt similar legislation in this state.

“The stakes couldn’t be higher. Our reproductive rights hang in the balance,” said Chapman-Pomponio, speaking during a press conference while standing at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This moment is the biggest wakeup call for anyone standing on the sidelines or thinking Roe v. Wade is somehow safeguarded.”

Loree Stark

ACLU-West Virginia legal director Loree Stark agreed that West Virginia law would likely change quickly if the Mississippi law is upheld.

“There are really no words to describe exactly how critical the decision that SCOTUS will issue in the coming months after today’s oral arguments may impact access to reproductive freedom not only in Mississippi but throughout the United States, including West Virginia,” Stark said.

“If the state of Mississippi succeeds in that ask — to overturn Roe — it is a matter of when, not if, other states across the country will pass their own legislation to make abortion inaccessible.”

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