The federal government told the Supreme Court on Thursday that a pending Missouri case gives it an “appropriate opportunity” to reconsider the high court’s landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.
In what appears to be the Reagan Administration’s last chance in the Supreme Court to address the 15-year-old Roe vs. Wade ruling, Solicitor General Charles Fried filed a brief noting that the Missouri case “is free of procedural defects.”
“Accordingly, if the court is prepared to reconsider Roe vs. Wade, this case presents an appropriate opportunity for doing so,” Fried’s 12-page brief said.
The solicitor general noted that the U.S. government’s views on abortion were expressed in a case in June, 1986. In that case, the government urged that Roe vs. Wade be overturned, arguing that there is no constitutional right to the procedure. But the court voted 5 to 4 to reaffirm the earlier ruling.
Regulations on Abortions
In the Missouri case, the state passed a law two years ago regulating abortions. The law also contains a finding that the life of each human being begins at conception.
The law provides that no public funds, employees or facilities are to be used to perform or assist in an abortion or to encourage or counsel a woman to have an abortion. It was struck down in July by a federal appeals court, which said the law was invalid under Roe vs. Wade.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, said that the Missouri case offers the high court a chance to address some important issues, such as limits on abortions late in pregnancy, even if it decides not to use the case to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
“We’re not predicting that the court would use this case as the occasion to overturn Roe vs. Wade,” Johnson said. “That’s a possibility. Of course, we would be delighted if they did.”
The Supreme Court justices are likely to vote in January on whether to hear the Missouri case, William L. Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services. If the court agrees to a review, that decision may come too late for the justices to hear arguments and rule before the end of their term in early July.