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Keker, Van Nest & Peters, on Behalf of 154 Distinguished Economists, Urges SCOTUS to Uphold Roe and Casey

Press Release

Lawyers from Keker, Van Nest & Peters filed an amicus brief on behalf of more than 150 distinguished economists today, in support of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to urge the United States Supreme Court to affirm a federal appellate court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization holding that pre-viability abortions are constitutionally protected.

The Keker team included attorneys Erin Meyer, Anjali Srinivasan, and Neha Sabharwal. Dr. Caitlin Myers, the John G. McCullough Professor of Economics at Middlebury College, spearheaded the effort on behalf of 154 distinguished economists and researchers in the United States and worldwide. The brief demonstrates the significant impacts that abortion legalization and access has had not only on U.S. birth rates but also on women’s social and economic status, educational attainment, and job opportunities.

Dobbs marks the first time that the Court will rule on the constitutionality of pre-viability abortion bans since the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which Planned Parenthood v. Casey re-affirmed in 1992. In 2018, Mississippi passed a law that banned abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy – undermining the protections granted under Roe, which protected a woman’s right to access a legal abortion before a fetus becomes viable around 24 weeks. The Jackson Women’s Health Organization challenged the constitutionality of Mississippi’s ban in a case brought before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. The trial court ruled that the ban was unconstitutional and the Fifth Circuit upheld the decision. In May 2021, the Supreme Court granted the State of Mississippi’s cert petition.

In bringing together the expertise of these distinguished economists, the brief aims to highlight for the Supreme Court how causal inference tools can be used to isolate and measure the impacts of abortion legalization in the United States and to model what would happen if the landmark decisions in Roe or Casey were overturned or limited.

“Access to abortion changed the arc of women’s lives by allowing them to plan their futures knowing they had greater control over if, when, and under what circumstances they would become mothers,” said Dr. Myers. “Advancements in causal inference tools have allowed us to generate overwhelming and powerful evidence showing that increased access to abortion reduces unintended births and improves the economic standing of women.”

The amicus brief also aims to rebut arguments from the State of Mississippi and other groups that have filed amicus briefs suggesting that measuring the impacts of abortion legalization is impossible and that abortion access is no longer relevant to women or their families. The Economists’ brief filed by Keker argues that these parties have reached this position by outright ignoring a substantial body of research and that their harmful conclusions do not accurately reflect the current needs of, or social and economic opportunities for, women in the United States.

Causal inference tools have allowed economists to assess the impact of abortion legalization, independent of other factors such as contraception. Researchers have found that access to abortion generates a significant reduction in birth rates, particularly for young women and Black women. Beyond birth rates, access to abortion increases the probability that a woman will finish college, enter a professional occupation and earn higher hourly wages throughout her career. Studies have also found that that legalization has led to a decrease in children living in poverty and cases of child abuse and neglect. Other studies have shown that children born during the Roe era had higher rates of college graduation, lower rates of single parenthood and lower rates of welfare receipt.

“This brief provides the Court with credible data showing the practical impact that any decision overturning or limiting Roe and Casey would have on women in our country. Ignoring these facts sets a dangerous precedent and threatens to deprive millions of women of basic rights upon which they’ve relied for decades, and which have allowed them to dream bigger dreams and realize economic and educational opportunities that may not otherwise have been possible,” said Ms. Meyer.

The current access to and technological developments in contraceptives do not obviate the need for abortions, according to the brief. Access to contraception is not without out-of-pocket expenses for many women and is not 100% effective in preventing pregnancies. And despite advancements in social and economic progress for women, motherhood still impedes women’s financial earnings and job opportunities. Working mothers still face barriers including a lack of paid parental leave and access to affordable childcare when returning to work.

“If protections established under Roe and Casey are undermined, at least 23 states are predicted to ban abortions and women across the country will face tremendous hurdles in reaching an abortion provider—including having to travel hundreds of miles and across state lines. The studies we cite in the brief show that as travel distances increase, many women will be unable to reach a provider. In fact, as many as 120,000 women may be prevented from reaching a provider in that first year alone if Roe and Casey are undermined,” said Ms. Srinivasan. “In highlighting this predicted impact, we urge the Court to uphold women’s constitutional protections.”

About Keker, Van Nest & Peters 
For 40 years, Keker, Van Nest & Peters has litigated complex, high-stakes civil and criminal cases throughout the nation. The firm takes the cases where companies, products, and careers are riding on the result. Our clients are high-profile individuals, as well as some of the world’s most successful companies, including Facebook, Genentech, Google, Instacart, Lyft, Major League Baseball, Netflix and Qualcomm. The firm’s areas of expertise include intellectual property, professional liability, class actions, general contract and commercial litigation, antitrust, white collar, and appellate. Our firm has a long and proud tradition of providing pro bono representation, ranging from high-impact civil rights litigation impacting communities to habeas corpus, criminal, immigration and asylum matters on behalf of individuals.