The allegations in the lawsuit relate to language in the Mississippi law that says medical providers can only administer doses of one dosage of mifepristone or two doses of misoprostol to induce a miscarriage if the woman shows “clear and convincing evidence” that the baby is viable. The suit alleges that the final two words of the provision are unconstitutionally worded.
The plaintiffs claim that this provision unconstitutionally deprives women in Mississippi of their constitutional right to make a free choice about whether to have an abortion, by preventing them from getting the treatment they deem medically necessary. While the court does not need to determine the legality of this provision, the plaintiffs’ arguments are both strong and coherent.
The standard of medical care is clear. A woman who has decided to undergo an abortion in the U.S. must receive specific and accurate information about the risks, benefits, alternatives, and alternatives’ risks, benefits, and costs of abortion. It is a physician’s job to discuss these risks and benefits with a patient before prescribing one or more of the dosage options in the woman’s medical care plan.
The law would further restrict women’s access to information regarding abortion-related medical conditions and complications. Such a law would contribute to a healthcare gap for women in Mississippi. African-American women in Mississippi have lower than average abortion rates, as are women overall. African-American women have disproportionately higher rates of surgical abortions (both than non-Hispanic white women, and women overall). Consequently, at the level of individual African-American women, the African-American health-care system is already struggling, and restricting access to abortion services is especially problematic in terms of ensuring access to care for African-American women.
Of particular concern is the legal battle to extend equal protection of the law to women who experience sexual assault and rape. Research has consistently demonstrated that in many of these cases, a woman is forced to have an abortion because of a threat to her physical or mental health, and therefore has an inalienable right to free speech. The abortion restrictions being enacted by Mississippi legislators appear to violate Roe v. Wade, which has already been deemed unconstitutional by an appellate court.
The welfare of women in Mississippi is unquestionably affected by a restrictive abortion law. Mississippi is not merely the largest southern state in the U.S., it also has the lowest per capita income in the nation. African-American women make up an estimated 55 percent of Mississippi’s population. In Mississippi, abortion is the second most common method of family planning (behind sterilization). The legislature’s overbroad ideological restrictions on women’s reproductive rights will negatively affect the lives of women in Mississippi.
Martin Luther King, Jr. argued that in America, “the poor are not the lawbreakers, the rich are not the lawbreakers, but the law is the law.” In the struggle for justice, peaceful protests, marches, sit-ins, vigils, and demonstrations were the only feasible political strategies to demand the rights of impoverished people. Lawmakers in Mississippi, be it Republicans or Democrats, would be best advised to heed King’s words and to respect the power of the law, particularly when it comes to unborn babies, innocent, childbearing women, and their families.
Amanda Love is the managing director of Pro-Choice America. Follow Pro-Choice America on Twitter and Facebook.