The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to lend its voice to a “friend of the court” brief in support of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide.
Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Holly Mitchell recommended joining an amicus brief in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. That case is set to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court and includes a request by Mississippi to overturn Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, cases that recognize a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.
“This is deja vu all over again,” Kuehl said. “It seems like I’ve spent since the ’70s joining in with people to support Roe v. Wade.”
Opponents of Roe are making progress, Kuehl noted, referencing a recent Texas law that seeks to prohibit abortions after roughly six weeks by requiring doctors to check for a fetal heartbeat and making abortion illegal if a heartbeat is found. The so-called Heartbeat Act allows private citizens to sue anyone who assists in the process — from doctors to a friend who knowingly drives a friend to a clinic. The $10,000 penalties associated with a successful civil suit have led many Texas clinics to stop handling abortions, at least temporarily while legal protests are mounted.
The first major challenge to the Texas law failed when the U.S. Supreme Court failed to grant a requested injunction, saying that because enforcement lay with the citizenry rather than criminal courts, the court’s authority was unclear. The high court did not rule on the law’s constitutionality, and the U.S. Department of Justice has since sued, arguing that the law is unconstitutional.
Some pundits believe the Mississippi case is the more important one to watch, and Mitchell said she thought it was important for the board — made up of five women — to be vocal in its support of a woman’s right to choose.
“For how many years must we continue to fight this same fight around control of our own bodies? It takes my breath away,” Mitchell said.
Supervisor Janice Hahn said the board “should do everything in our power we can do to protect Roe w. Wade.” Hahn suggested that the board might consider a ban on nonessential travel to Texas by county employees as a way to express its condemnation, but did not make a motion Wednesday.
In an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, Texas state Sen. Bryan Hughes, who authored the law, said he was required to take an unconventional approach. He pushed back against the idea that Roe v. Wade is “off limits to democracy.”
Karen Swallow Prior, a research professor and columnist at Religion News Service, is a pro-life Christian who told the New York Times, “Abortion is a failure for every woman and her unborn child — a failure of love, justice and mercy.”
Opponents of acts such as the Texas law argue that they will not end abortions but only force women to seek unsafe medical care.
Mitchell offered a warning. “Even though California is considered a ‘safe’ state, we cannot presume these rights will always be guaranteed,” she said. “We cannot presume this attack will not affect our ongoing local efforts to provide safe and respectful reproductive care and access to legal abortions.”