FFRF files Supreme Court brief to counter Mississippi’s anti-abortion gambit


The Freedom From Religion Foundation and its secular allies are pushing back in the U.S. Supreme Court against Mississippi’s religion-infused attempt to severely curtail abortion rights. 

The state/church watchdog has drafted and filed a friend-of-the-court brief before the highest court in the land in Dobbs v. Jackson Health Organization. In the brief, FFRF puts forth a well-reasoned argument as to why Mississippi’s lawsuit to effectively overturn Roe v. Wade will require courts to confront the religious purposes underlying abortion bans: “Religion has always been at the heart of anti-abortion legislation, and Mississippi House Bill 1510 is likewise motivated by religious ideology.” This is revealed by various highly sectarian religious statements that Mississippi legislators made in support of the legislation, such as: “I believe that life is precious and children are a gift from God” and “I am not God, but I serve a God who says life is in the blood. And this bill will protect those lives.”

The brief elaborates on its secularly informed assertion.

“The state is asking the court to toss out the decades-long safeguard of choice before viability, and require courts to engage in fact-finding and searching analysis of state interests in order to judge them compelling enough to justify abortion bans,” it states. “But doing away with the viability framework and asking courts to review and weigh state interests before viability will require courts to address the underlying purpose of such abortion bans — to enshrine into civil law a religious belief about when personhood begins.”

Due to the religious impetus of Mississippi’s anti-abortion onslaught, FFRF felt a compelling need to make itself heard in this Supreme Court case.

As FFRF stated in May when the Supreme Court decided to hear the lawsuit, abortion access and care are unnecessarily divisive due to the ideological motivations of the few. A recent Pew study found that the majority of Americans believes that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 82 percent of religiously unaffiliated people support legal abortions. Not surprisingly, today almost all of FFRF’s members consider reproductive rights a vital secular policy issue. A recent membership survey showed that 98.8 percent of FFRF members support the constitutional right to legal abortion embodied in Roe v. Wade. Among FFRF members and the general population, abortion rights have high approval, but a religious minority is driving the agenda of states such as Mississippi.

This brief states in its closing portion: “The government has no business requiring citizens to comply with the religious beliefs of those who are in power. The framers of the Constitution adopted a godless and entirely secular Constitution, in which the only references to religion are exclusionary.”

It is simply unconstitutional for a state to force a religious belief about personhood onto anyone else, FFRF contends and urges the Supreme Court to uphold the judgment of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down the Mississippi anti-abortion law.

“Religion has no legitimate function to play in lawmaking in the United States,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The Supreme Court, as guardian of our Constitution, should be fully cognizant of this.”

FFRF Associate Counsel Elizabeth Cavell drafted the amicus brief for the organization, with help from FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert, Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott and FFRF Reproductive Rights Intern Barbara Alvarez. The Center for Inquiry and American Atheists are the other groups that have joined in FFRF’s brief.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members across the country. FFRF protects the constitutional separation between state and church and educates about nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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