I’ve written extensively on what I call “The Mother Of All Rulings,” the coming US Supreme Court consideration of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization. (See Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.) This case originated with pro-life legislation passed by the state of Mississippi in 2018 prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks gestational age. It thus represents a full-frontal challenge to Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey and seeks to overturn Supreme Court rulings that created a constitutional right to abortion. Dobbs is arguably the most important case to come before the US Supreme Court in fifty years and has the potential of becoming a dominant point of public discussion for years, if not decades, to come.
There have been some important developments in this case.
First, the Supreme Court has established December 1st as the date it will hear oral argument in the case. Mark that date on your calendar as it is likely to be one that sees massive demonstrations in support of and opposition to the notion that there is a constitutional right to abortion. We’ll see how things develop, but it would not surprise me to see hundreds of thousands of people descend on Washington DC to demonstrate their views. The Washington DC demonstrations are likely to be coordinated with state and local rallies across the country.
Second, as an indication of how important Democrats see this case to their political coalition, the Biden Administration has asked the Supreme Court for permission to itself present oral argument in the case. Normally oral argument is equally divided between each side. If the Biden Administration’s request is granted, lawyers for Jackson Women’s Health Organization will likely have to surrender some of their argument time to the government. In addition, some 236 Democrat members of Congress have asked the Supreme Court to uphold abortion as a constitutional right. This represents 86% of all Democrat members of Congress. Among US Senators, 48 of 50 Democrats were represented. Only Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia did not lend their names to the request. Some 188 out of 224 Democrat members of the House (including Delegates) joined the request. That is 84% of the House Democrat membership. Mississippi’s lone remaining Democrat representative in Congress, Rep. Bennie Thompson, joined with other Democrats in demanding that his state’s law be invalidated.
Another sign of the importance of this case is the number of amicus briefs that have been filed. The all-time record for amicus briefs is 147 in the Obergefell v Hodges gay marriage case. So far, by my count, there have been 136 briefs filed in the Dobbs case. The deadline for briefs supporting Mississippi has already passed. The deadline to support abortion providers was yesterday. It’s not clear if the Supreme Court has posted all the briefs filed supporting abortion providers, so a new record may still be set. Supreme Court practitioners, with whom I have spoken, say it can take a day or two for amicus briefs to be posted to the Court’s website.
With the date for oral argument now established, I expect that public relations efforts by both sides will begin to ramp up to a fever pitch as December 1st approaches.