Who is Lynn Fitch? Mississippi AG asks SCOTUS to overturn landmark Roe v Wade case
Lynn Fitch files brief in Supreme Court defending state's abortion laws, asks court to overturn the historic case that has defended abortion since '70s
In the fall, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will hear a landmark case on abortion. Ahead of that hearing, Mississippi's Attorney General Lynn Fitch has filed a rather controversial brief with the court. Not only did Fitch defend the state's ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but she also called on the court to overturn the landmark Roe v Wade case, which legalized abortion in the US since the 1970s.
Conservatives have long since sought to challenge Roe v Wade, but have had little luck so far. An October 2020 poll found 60 per cent of Americans want the ruling to stay, conducted while Amy Coney Barrett's nomination was being debated in the Senate. On the campaign trail, Joe Biden promised to codify the ruling into law, as fears emerged the conservative-leaning court could end legalized abortion.
The Roe v Wade ruling has proven to be a major thorn in the side of the GOP, especially at the state level. In June 2020, the SCOTUS struck down a Louisiana law that closed nearly all abortion clinics statewide, citing it was a violation of Roe v Wade. The ruling could also have a bearing on the upcoming case, where the court will rule on Mississippi's abortion law. That is probably why Fitch has asked the court to overturn the ruling, which if done would give the state a better chance of winning.
Who is Lynn Fitch?
A native of Holly Springs, Fitch is a well-known lawyer and politician in Mississippi. She obtained her undergraduate and JD degrees from the University of Mississippi. After graduating, she began her career as a Special Assistant AG at the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office. She then turned to private practice, alongside public service. In total, Fitch has about 35 years of experience as a legal expert.
In the 2000s, Fitch was selected by then-governor Hayley Barbour to serve as executive director of the Mississippi State Personnel Board (MSPB). Fitch also had stints at the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) and the Mississippi House of Representatives Ways and Means and Local and Private Legislation Committees. Those experiences turned Fitch into politics and she ran for state treasurer in 2011. Running as a Republican, Fitch won the election and served in the role from 2012 to 2020.
In 2018, she announced her nomination for the role of AG, an ambitious one since no woman has ever served as the AG of Mississippi. She steamrolled all opponents in the primary and won the general election easily to clinch the role in 2019. In January 2020, Fitch was seated as the first woman AG of Mississippi. Like most Republicans, her tenure hasn't been without controversy.
Fitch joined Texas AG Ken Paxton's controversial lawsuit against the states that made changes to voting during the 2020 presidential elections. The suit wanted to invalidate ballots in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, in a bid to ensure Trump remained the president. However, that case was thrown out by the Supreme Court. Now, she's taking on the Supreme Court over Roe v Wade.
Abortion case goes to SCOTUS
In short, here's what's happening. In 2018, Mississippi enacted a law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. It was then blocked by several lower courts, citing the visibility standard set in Roe, which most medical professionals agree with. The state then took the case to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear arguments. In its initial filing, Fitch didn't say anything about overturning Roe v Wade. "To be clear, the questions presented in this petition do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey," she wrote in her June 2020 filing.
On July 22, Fitch filed another brief with the court, this time explicitly asking for Roe v Wade to be overturned. "The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states," she wrote. Fitch added, "The Attorney General asks the Court to consider the policy and cultural shifts that have occurred in the 30-50 years since Roe and Casey and argue that the precedent set in these cases shackle states to a view of facts that is decades out of date." She concluded, "It is time for the Court to let go of its hold on this important debate."
Essentially, Fitch is asking for the court to allow states to determine their own policies on abortion, and not be hampered by the Roe v Wade case. If that were to happen, state legislatures would be able to outlaw abortion nearly nationally, without check. Currently, the GOP controls both houses and the Governor's office in 22 states. In eight states, they control the state legislatures. Unless the US House and Senate pass a bill legalizing abortion, it would mean abortion could be fully illegal, if the GOP wanted, in all GOP-controlled states.
That's why the case in the Supreme Court matters. If the justices agree with Fitch, it could kill a 50-year-old standard in the US. A decision on the case is expected in June or July 2022, just months away from the crucial mid-term elections.