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Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Description: The Gestational Age Act is a Mississippi law that protects the health of pregnant mothers, the dignity of unborn children, and the integrity of the medical profession by limiting abortions after 15 weeks in gestational age, permitting them only in medical emergencies or for severe fetal abnormality. Mississippi’s law highlights a conflict between the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade and the court’s repeated affirmation in subsequent cases that states have a legitimate interest in limiting abortion and protecting “vulnerable and innocent life” from the moment of conception.


U.S. Supreme Court building, Washington, DC
Monday, May 17, 2021

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, regarding the Gestational Age Act, a Mississippi law that protects the health of pregnant mothers, the dignity of unborn children, and the integrity of the medical profession by limiting abortions after 15 weeks in gestational age, permitting them only in medical emergencies or for severe fetal abnormality.

“Every human life is valuable, and Mississippi’s law is a commonsense step toward protecting unborn children and their mothers from the harms of late-term abortion,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Denise Harle. “The law protects the life of a baby who can already move around and kick in her mom’s womb—a child who has a heartbeat, can taste what her mom eats, and can experience pain. And the law also protects women, since late-term abortions grow increasingly dangerous to the mother’s health. Women and their children both deserve real health care; that’s why we’re glad the Supreme Court has decided to take up this matter.”

The state argues that “viability” is an arbitrary standard for determining when a state’s interests are sufficient to regulate, and that the Supreme Court has already recognized that the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the unborn infant and the health of the mother from the very beginning of pregnancy. Mississippi’s law highlights a conflict between the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade and the court’s repeated affirmation in subsequent cases that states have a legitimate interest in limiting abortion and protecting “vulnerable and innocent life” from the moment of conception.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that states are free to regulate late-term abortions,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch. “Thanks to amazing progress in scientific research and medical technology, the concept of ‘viability’ is an ever-moving target as younger children have survived and thrived after preterm birth. But ‘viability’ has never been a legitimate way to determine a developing infant’s dignity or to decide anybody’s legal existence. The high court should take this important opportunity to resolve the conflicts between its previous rulings and affirm the constitutionality of Mississippi’s law.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Harle (HAR’-lee)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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ABOUT Denise Harle

Denise Harle serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is a key member of the Center for Life. In this role, Harle focuses her litigation efforts on defending pro-life legislation around the nation. She also works to defend the First Amendment freedoms of pro-life health care professionals and pregnancy resource centers. Since joining ADF, Harle took the primary role in drafting the briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in NIFLA v. Becerra, resulting in a free speech victory for California pro-life pregnancy centers. Prior to joining ADF, Harle served as deputy solicitor general in the Office of the Florida Attorney General, where she drafted appellate briefs and presented oral arguments on behalf of the state in a wide variety of constitutional cases, including defending the constitutionality of pro-life laws. In 2017, she participated in the prestigious Supreme Court Fellow program, sponsored by the National Association of Attorneys General. She clerked for Justice Ricky L. Polston on the Florida Supreme Court and worked for several years as an appellate litigator at a large firm in California. Harle earned bachelor’s degrees, summa cum laude, in psychology and interdisciplinary social science from Florida State University, a master’s degree in political science from Stanford University, and a Juris Doctor from Duke University School of Law. At Duke, she served as the executive editor of Law & Contemporary Problems, the law school’s oldest journal. A member of the state bars of California, Florida, and Georgia, she is admitted to multiple federal district and appellate courts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.

ABOUT John Bursch

John Bursch is senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom. Bursch has argued 12 U.S. Supreme Court cases and more than 30 state supreme court cases since 2011, and a recent study concluded that among all frequent Supreme Court advocates who did not work for the federal government, he had the 3rd highest success rate for persuading justices to adopt his legal position. Bursch served as solicitor general for the state of Michigan from 2011-2013. He has argued multiple Michigan Supreme Court cases in eight of the last ten terms and has successfully litigated hundreds of matters nationwide, including six with at least $1 billion at stake. As part of his private firm, Bursch Law PLLC, he has represented Fortune 500 companies, foreign and domestic governments, top public officials, and industry associations in high-profile cases, primarily on appeal. He received his J.D. magna cum laude in 1997 from the University of Minnesota Law School and is admitted to practice in numerous federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.