Thomas E. Dobbs, M.D., M.P.H., in his Official Capacity as State Health Officer of Mississippi Department of Health, et al., Petitioners v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, et al.
Introduction and Summary of Argument
People rely on this Court’s decisions. They rely on the stability of the law, as this Court rarely retrenches on past precedent regarding fundamental rights and equality. Respondents ably demonstrate that bedrock principles of stare decisis strongly counsel against overruling Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 856 (1992). Amici support that position and wish to emphasize the vital importance of those decisions to sexual minority women—women who have same-sex partners or identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, or otherwise non-heterosexual. According to the CDC, one in twelve women in the United States between the ages of 18 and 44 is a sexual minority. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Key Statistics from the National Survey of Family Growth: Sexual identity, attraction, and activity (2018).
Stare decisis “promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial pro cess.” Payne v. Tennessee, 501 U.S. 808, 827 (1991). This Court does not overrule its constitutional precedents lightly. And when asked to do so, it carefully considers the real-world consequences its decision would have on those who have come to rely on the challenged ruling, especially those who are most likely to experience significant harms from a change in the law.
Overruling Roe and Casey would have catastrophic effects on sexual minority women. Lesbian, bisexual, and other non-heterosexual women are at least as likely as other women to experience unintended pregnancies and to require abortion care. Sexual minority women are more likely to experience unintended pregnancies as a result of sexual violence. They are more likely to lack insurance. And they face widespread discrimination in the health care system, including in the provision of contraceptive care.
All of these factors combine to make sexual minority women among the most vulnerable who rely on abortion rights. Being denied an abortion has serious, lasting consequences for all women, and has profound and often distinct adverse effects on sexual minority women. It exposes an already at-risk population to greater rates of poverty, domestic violence, and negative health outcomes.
Immediate, practical consequences are not the only effects relevant to stare decisis. This Court also considers broader jurisprudential consequences of overruling precedent, including such a decision’s consistency with other areas of the law. Those considerations, too, counsel against jettisoning Roe and Casey. This Court rarely—if ever—overrules precedent to take away a previously recognized constitutional right. Doing so now cannot be reconciled with this Court’s decisions affirming the fundamental equality of women and of LGBTQ people or with its decisions banning dis crimination based on sex. In addition to unduly burdening a fundamental right, Mississippi’s law violates the fundamental guarantee of equal protection, creating a sex-based classification that inflicts serious harms on women, including those represented by amici in this case.
Mississippi asks this Court to return the country to a time when the law subordinated women by denying them equal liberty because of their sex. The Court should reject this devastating wrong turn and decline to roll back the clock.