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Nearly 900 state legislators urge Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade in major abortion case

Arguments in the case involving Mississippi's 15-week abortion are scheduled to begin this fall.
Abortion rights activists hold signs alongside anti-abortion activists outside the Supreme Court in 2019.
Abortion rights activists hold signs alongside anti-abortion right activists outside the Supreme Court in 2019.Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images file

Nearly 900 state legislators from 45 states asked the Supreme Court on Monday to uphold Roe v. Wade and reject Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, a direct attack on the landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The brief was filed Monday morning by the State Innovation Exchange, a progressive legislation advocacy group, in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. Opening arguments before the high court are scheduled to begin this fall.

Of the amicus brief’s 897 signatory lawmakers, all were Democrats with the exception of two independents. Legislators from every state except Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Wyoming signed. The brief's organizers believe it's the largest-ever collection of state legislators to have signed a brief in a Supreme Court case related to abortion access.

NBC News obtained a copy of the brief before it was filed.

The brief argued that the Supreme Court has a responsibility to uphold the legal precedents set by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey — the two main decisions that legalized abortion in the United States — which they maintain provided pregnant people the constitutional right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy free from state interference.

"If the Court fails to uphold the rule of law and precedent, and instead guts or overturns Roe, there will be disastrous consequences for women seeking abortions, as well as for their families. Legislators from states at risk of banning abortion in the absence or gutting of Roe have an interest in protecting Roe so abortion remains legal in their state,” the brief states.

The brief adds that pre-viability bans like the one proposed in Mississippi will disproportionately affect people of color, low-income people and other marginalized communities.

“The justices will be answering one key question in this case: Are pre-viability bans unconstitutional? The answer is yes and decades of precedent have already established that,” said the State Innovation Exchange's senior director of reproductive rights Jennifer Driver. “This brief demonstrates that nearly 1,000 state legislators are fighting back to say this court must maintain 50 years of precedent.”

Added Democratic Texas state Rep. Jasmine Crockett, who signed the brief: “This case should not about whether lawmakers and justices agree with having abortion access. It is about the fact that access to abortion health care a long-settled constitutional protection.”

In addition, 48 Democrats in the Senate and 188 in the House also filed a bicameral amicus brief Monday urging the Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade.

“This Court has made clear that abortion bans like [Mississippi's law] 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," the lawmakers wrote. "But as a matter of public policy, it is also important to recognize that laws like [Mississippi's law] 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 Supreme Court said in May that it would consider during its upcoming term the legality of Mississippi's Gestational Age Act, which prohibits abortions after 15 weeks except in cases of medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormalities. The law was struck down by a lower court ruling. A decision in the case would likely come in spring 2022.

In a filing in July, lawyers for the state of Mississippi urged the Supreme Court to not only uphold the state's law, but to also explicitly overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The Supreme Court's decision to hear the Dobbs case is the first time in decades that it will consider the issue of abortion access — and abortion rights advocates have expressed concern that the newly conservative bench will be more receptive to abortion restrictions.

That concern appeared to be validated this month when the court, in a 5-4 ruling declined to block a restrictive Texas law banning abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, or as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The law also allows anyone in the country to sue abortion providers or others who help women get the procedure after that time frame.