How Mississippi Led Way to Overturn Roe, Attorney General Lynn Fitch Explains

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At the center of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

In 2018, Mississippi passed a 15-week abortion ban. The abortion clinic Jackson Women’s Health challenged the law. 

“When I took office, that case had been sitting at the Fifth Circuit and it needed to be appealed,” Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said. “We looked at it and said, absolutely, we wanted to appeal this case to the United States Supreme Court.” 

Fitch joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to talk about Mississippi’s role in overturning Roe. She also weighs in on the Biden administration’s claims that it will continue promoting abortion. 

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Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:

Virginia Allen: It is my honor to welcome to the show Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch. Attorney General Fitch, welcome back.

Attorney General Lynn Fitch: Thank you. It’s great to be back. And what a time to be talking about the celebration and a brand new day for the American people with turning the page on Roe v. Wade.

Allen: That’s right. We are now living in a post-Roe America and at the heart of that ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade is the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Attorney General Fitch, can you just give us a little bit of background on the Dobbs case? For those that don’t know, how did this case first begin?

Fitch: Absolutely. This is a 2018 case law that was passed by the Mississippi legislature and it was on the 15-week abortion ban. It was ultimately appealed and challenged and became the Dobbs case. When I took office, that case had been sitting at the Fifth Circuit and it needed to be appealed. We looked at it and said, absolutely, we wanted to appeal this case to the United States Supreme Court, because we need to have this put before the justices. We need to have the conversation about empowering women and promoting life. And we need to very much talk about overturning Roe v Wade. So we posted it up there. It sat there and percolated for a number of months, and we were just absolutely thrilled when they took our case up.

I mean, it’s a case for our state, but it’s a case for all states because it’s certainly a rule of law question. Then we received [word that] oral arguments would be set for December the 1st. And we wrote our brief—we had many partners, great coalition team effort. … Scott Stewart is the solicitor general. He led the teams, did a phenomenal job of writing the brief, and then making the oral argument on December the 1st.

Allen: And just incredible to think back to one week ago, that moment when we all learned Roe v Wade had officially been overturned. Was there anything, as you read through the opinion on the Dobbs case, that surprised you?

Fitch: There was not. I mean, we’d been very clear about what our ask was, why it was a rule of law question. We very specifically laid out it should be empowering women and promoting life at the same time and Justice [Samuel] Alito just laid it out so beautifully. He went all the way through it. He hit every point. The opinion was very clear that the Constitution did not confer a right to abortion. And it clearly stated that Roe and [Planned Parenthood v.] Casey are overturned.

So it is very much surreal, but what an opportunity for our country, what a victory for women and for children, and also for the court itself. I really commend the court for restoring constitutional principle and certainly returning this important issue back to the American people.

Allen: Well, already, we’ve seen that 26 states have put laws in place to protect our most vulnerable, to protect the unborn, but not all state attorney generals are celebrating this as a human rights victory.

We’ve seen that Wisconsin’s Democratic attorney general filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, challenging the state’s pre-Roe abortion ban. And Michigan’s attorney general also says that she won’t enforce the state’s pre-Roe abortion ban. What do you make of these attorney generals who say that they’re not going to uphold the law in their states that is on the books to protect life?

Fitch: Well, it’s unfortunate that they’re taking that stance, but from our perspective, we have to continue to exercise humility and grace in our victory. They definitely want the people to believe that the post-Roe America will be hostile to women. And so … we have to continue to act as we have always, with humility and respect and compassion, and the hope is that we can all reach across the aisle and start focusing on empowering women.

Allen: What exactly is happening in Mississippi right now regarding abortion clinics? Are they maintaining a presence in your state? Are doors of Planned Parenthoods closing? What’s happening in your state?

Fitch: So in our state, the way a 2007 law read [was] that the attorney general’s office would certify if Roe v. Wade was ever overturned. So it required a couple things, the trigger law for the state of Mississippi—determination that if Roe’s overturned, and that is reasonably, probably the trigger is constitutional. So we certainly did a complex analysis. We filed Monday in the administrative bulletin with the secretary of state. So we have filed.

We have certified. And according to the law, it’ll take effect in 10 days, which would be July the 7th. I did write the Jackson Women’s Healthcare Organization to inform them of the trigger law. We only have one in Mississippi, and that would be that, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to remind them of their responsibilities under the current law. Didn’t take very long.

Within hours, the clinic’s lawyers filed suit to keep their doors open. So we are now in a pending litigation situation, and we’re going to always continue to fight to sustain the victory for life in Dobbs. So we’re fighting right now about getting that to be approved by a special chancellor. Mississippi Supreme Court is going to designate the chancellor. Then we’ll take up their argument and then we’ll be moving forward.

Allen: OK. So there’s still in some ways a legal battle happening.

Fitch: But I think they intended to do that all across the country in order to stay any action. That the longer they could keep permitting abortions across our country, the longer they could continue along that journey that they think is much better. And we know that the victory is actually for life. So we anticipated, and so we’re prepared. We’ll be ready to get this moving as quickly as possible.

Allen: And what do you anticipate the outcome of that legal challenge to be?

Fitch: Oh, I think they’re going to, no question, uphold the Mississippi law. It’ll be our Mississippi Supreme Court that will look at it. Again, it’s a very solid law. We’ve done an excellent job of putting the trigger law in place. So I no question think they will uphold it in the Mississippi Supreme Court and we’ll just move right on into where we are.

And then, the real question is then we all want to get down to the real business of empowering women. And I think that’s where we have to stop and have some very strong and some very hard conversation.

And we’re going to have to talk about in our state, as many others will, we’re going to have to talk about how do we fortify the safety net for women that are in need. And that’s going to be very important that we step up and provide a lot of resources and tools for women. Have the hard conversation about more affordable and accessible childcare. And we’re going to need to talk about how we enforce child support so that fathers are equally responsible for these children because for too long mothers, women have born the cost alone of raising children.

And then we’re going to need to talk about workplace flexibility and other issues such as more maternity and paternity options. We’re going to need to have some conversation about streamlining adoption, and then how we improve the foster care system, because these children deserve to be placed very quickly with loving, compassionate families that will help these children thrive.

Allen: I’m glad to hear that you all are talking about those things because I think so many people are asking those questions of, OK, what now? What happens next? And how do we as a pro-life movement, as a pro-life culture, how do we now truly put actions behind our words and support women who are facing crisis pregnancies? So that’s really, really critical.

Fitch: And we are moving forward. We are already working on a package of laws and looking at policies that could be empowering to women in different agencies. So we’ve already started to work on that and we’re looking forward to getting all that together so we can begin to share with our partners and our legislators, and really take action steps now.

Allen: That’s critical. Well, and speaking at the national or federal level, we’re seeing from the Biden administration some interesting messaging right now. They say that they’re looking at all of the options regarding abortion, including maybe putting abortion clinics on federal lands. What’s your legal assessment of this and could the Biden administration put abortion clinics on federal land within states like Mississippi that now restrict abortion?

Fitch: Well, I will say at this point, they’re grasping. This administration is looking for anything and everything to be able to get some hooks in. And they’re trying to instill fear. They are definitely fear mongering in every way that they can. But I think that’s unfortunate. They’re trying to put women in the position and making them become criminals. And they’re really utilizing that fear across the board, but we’ll wait and see what [President Joe] Biden and the Congress do. And then we’ll look to really answer back as we have on so many issues from this administration though. They have done a lot of overreach on so many different areas and we will continue to fight back.

Allen: For some time the abortion movement has been promoting chemical abortions. These are pills that are often mailed to women that end the life of the child. Women take them at home and essentially your body is forced into labor. And your uterus is emptied.

Do pro-life states like Mississippi have the ability to regulate abortion pills now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. And is that possible to regulate? Are you all looking into that? What happens next regarding chemical abortions?

Fitch: Well, that’s a great question. And we’re certainly seeing that across the board. That is certainly another area we’re going to be watching very closely. We have some litigation currently, and we’re not at liberty to discuss the ongoing case, but certainly it’s important for us to look at this perspective as well.

Allen: Yeah, no, I think that it is a critical issue and one that I think the whole pro-life movement right now is really talking about, and I know states across the country are talking about, OK, how do we move forward on this? Because like we say, of course we’re protecting the life of that baby, but also of the mom, and that’s really a critical conversation. And we know that chemical abortions do put women in danger.

So when we talk about moving forward and moving forward into this post-Roe world, post-Roe America, how can pro-life individuals across America be a part of creating a culture of life in their own state?

Fitch: Well, it is an opportunity for us all to step in, to be there in providing certainly love, support, compassion, and prayers, but there are other areas. We have to have some conversation about and then actually step in and provide support to these pregnancy centers. We have over 30 in the state of Mississippi. And so we’ve been already looking at ways that we can be supportive of them, how we can get people engaged to help them on every level, help these women, help these children. We had a tax credit that was passed in this last legislative session to entice people to make donations and receive a tax credit.

We’ll be looking for other ways we can do that. We’ll certainly be looking to talk with our legislators about other laws that could be passed that could be beneficial to the pregnancy centers. And then actually looking at all these other ways that we can step in, whether it’s upskilling these women [and] again, talking about the childcare, how we can make that connection, how we can give them more flexibility. And then looking at every avenue that really will empower women because they’ve just not had that capability. And now everyone can be a part of that, to empower these women and these children.

Allen: Well, it has been such an exciting really Supreme Court term, as we’ve seen just in the last week. Of course, Roe v. Wade be overturned. And then on Monday, the Seattle Washington football coach, Coach Joe Kennedy, won his case for his First Amendment right to prayer.

As we head in to July 4th, as we head into a time of celebrating our independence as a nation and really everything that has happened just in the course of the past week, freedoms being furthered in our country, what is your message to Americans?

Fitch: Well, it certainly should make all Americans proud. This has been a court that has again stepped in and restored conservative values and principles, and really have the tone of our faith and our Christianity being the basis. And that’s exciting to see that being restored. I mean, certainly we’re a country founded on “In God We Trust” and to actually see that come to fruition and have, in 2022, these cases come down that restore that principle, it’s just very exciting for us in America.

But as we have grasped these great decisions that have come down, it’s just very important still that we act with humility, speak with respect, and act with compassion for all of us. We’ve not seen that on so many areas, but for us, we should definitely offer that type of loving compassion attitude, because we’ve been so very blessed.

Allen: Absolutely. Very happy July 4th to you, Attorney General, and to all of our listeners. Happy Independence Day. Attorney General Lynn Fitch, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate you joining us.

Fitch: Thank you too. And happy fourth to you as well.

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