Commentary: This week, U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (N.M.-01) joined 236 lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in filing a bicameral amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold nearly 50 years of precedent in Roe v. Wade, after the Court decided to hear a challenge in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. 188 Democrats in the House and 48 in the Senate joined in filing the amicus in support of women’s reproductive rights with the Court.
The House will also vote on Friday on a bill to protect reproductive rights legislatively through the Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755), which Congresswoman Stansbury cosponsors with 214 total members.
After the Court refused to block a dangerous new abortion law in Texas, Dobbs represents the latest challenge to nearly 50 years of court precedent, that could result in serious challenge or overturn of Roe with the current conservative makeup of the court. The Dobbs case was filed by Mississippi’s sole remaining abortion provider, challenging a state law banning all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape and incest. Lower courts found the Mississippi law unconstitutional under Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which held that individuals have the right to decide whether to be pregnant prior to fetal viability. In 2019, the Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court decision halting the Mississippi law’s implementation.
In the amicus brief filed by lawmakers on Monday, they argue that the Supreme Court, “has made clear that abortion bans like H.B. 1510 are unconstitutional because they violate the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy before viability; the decision below should be affirmed on that basis alone. But as a matter of public policy, it is also important to recognize that laws like H.B. 1510 do not merely encroach on individual liberty and autonomy; they also do so in a way that disproportionately imperils the health and economic security of vulnerable populations.”.
The lawmakers stress that the only thing that has changed since Roe and other cases have been decided is the composition of the Court itself—which is not a compelling reason to re-examine Roe. Therefore, the members emphasized that overturning Roe would represent a disregard for settled law, our legal system, and the Constitution. “Respect for precedent—a fundamental principle that is essential to our legal system, the legitimacy of judicial and legislative institutions, and the rule of law—compels affirmance of the decision below.”
The lawmakers also noted that the abortion rights codified in Roe and Casey have been settled law for nearly 50 years and 30 years respectively, highlighting that multiple generations have understood their rights under Roe and Casey, as a “firmly established constitutional right, and who have never known a world without Roe’s constitutional guarantee.” The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional right to an abortion as recently as 2016, in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, and again just last year in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo.
The brief was led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representatives Pallone, Nadler, DeGette, Lee, and Chu, and in addition to Congresswoman Stansbury was also signed by Representatives Adams (D-NC), Aguilar (D-CA), Allred (D-TX), Auchincloss (D-MA), Barragán (D-CA), Bass (D-CA), Beatty (D-OH), Bera (D-CA), Beyer (D-VA), Blumenauer (D-OR), Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Bonamici (D-OR), Bourdeaux (D-GA), Bowman (D-NY), Brown (D-MD), Brownley (D-CA), Bush (D-MO), Bustos (D-IL), Carbajal (D-CA), Cárdenas (D-CA), Carson (D-IN), Carter (D-LA), Cartwright (D-PA), Case (D-HI), Casten (D-IL), Castor (D-FL), Castro (D-TX), Cicilline (D-RI), Clark (D-MA), Clarke (D-NY), Clyburn (D-SC), Cohen (D-TN), Connolly (D-VA), Cooper (D-TN), Correa (D-CA), Costa (D-CA), Courtney (D-CT), Craig (D-MN), Crist (D-FL), Crow (D-CO), Davids (D-KS), Davis (D-IL), Dean (D-PA), DeFazio (D-OR), DeLauro (D-CT), DelBene (D-WA), Delgado (D-NY), Demings (D-FL), DeSaulnier (D-CA), Deutch (D-FL), Dingell (D-MI), Doggett (D-TX), Doyle (D-PA), Escobar (D-TX), Eshoo (D-CA), Espaillat (D-NY), Evans (D-PA), Fletcher (D-TX), Foster (D-IL), Frankel (D-FL), Gallego (D-AZ), Garcia (D-TX), García (D-IL), Gomez (D-CA), Gottheimer (D-NJ), Grijalva (D-AZ), Hayes (D-CT), Higgins (D-NY), Himes (D-CT), Horsford (D-NV), Hoyer (D-MD), Huffman (D-CA), Jackson Lee (D-TX), Jacobs (D-CA), Jayapal (D-WA), Jeffries (D-NY), Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Johnson (D-GA), Jones (D-NY), Kahele (D-HI), Kelly (D-IL), Khanna (D-CA), Kildee (D-MI), Kilmer (D-WA), Kim (D-NJ), Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Kuster (D-NH), Lamb (D-PA), Larson (D-CT), Lawrence (D-MI), Lawson (D-FL), Lee (D-NV), Leger Fernández (D-NM), Levin (D-MI), Lieu (D-CA), Lofgren (D-CA), Lowenthal (D-CA), Malinowski (D-NJ), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Manning (D-NC), Matsui (D-CA), McBath (D-GA), McCollum (D-MN), McEachin (D-VA), McGovern (D-MA), McNerney (D-CA), Meeks (D-NY), Meng (D-NY), Moore (D-WI), Morelle (D-NY), Moulton (D-MA), Murphy (D-FL), Napolitano (D-CA), Neal (D-MA), Neguse (D-CO), Newman (D-IL), Norcross (D-NJ), Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Omar (D-MN), Panetta (D-CA), Pappas (D-NH), Payne (D-NJ), Perlmutter (D-CO), Peters (D-CA), Pingree (D-ME), Pocan (D-WI), Porter (D-CA), Pressley (D-MA), Price (D-NC), Quigley (D-IL), Raskin (D-MD), Rice (D-NY), Ross (D-NC), Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Ruiz (D-CA), Ruppersberger (D-MD), Ryan (D-OH), Sánchez (D-CA), Sarbanes (D-MD), Scanlon (D-PA), Schakowsky (D-IL), Schneider (D-IL), Schrier (D-WA), Scott (D-VA), Sewell (D-AL), Sherman (D-CA), Sherrill (D-NJ), Sires (D-NJ), Smith (D-WA), Soto (D-FL), Speier (D-CA), Stanton (D-AZ), Stevens (D-MI), Strickland (D-WA), Swalwell (D-CA), Takano (D-CA), Thompson (D-MS), Thompson (D-CA), Titus (D-NV), Tlaib (D-MI), Tonko (D-NY), Torres (D-CA), Torres (D-NY), Trahan (D-MA), Trone (D-MD), Underwood (D-IL), Vargas (D-CA), Veasey (D-TX), Velazquez (D-NY), Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Waters (D-CA), Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Welch (D-VT), Wexton (D-VA), Wild (D-PA), Williams (D-GA), Wilson (D-FL), and Yarmuth (D-KY).
In addition to Senators Schumer, Murray, Durbin, and Blumenthal, the amicus brief was signed by Senators Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Duckworth (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Hassan (D-NH), Heinrich (D-NM), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), Kelly (D-AZ), King (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Luján (D-NM), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Ossoff (D-GA), Padilla (D-CA), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Shaheen (D-NH), Sinema (D-AZ), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warner (D-VA), Warnock (D-GA), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wyden (D-OR).
Read the amicus brief HERE.