Washington (CNN)Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves called recent Supreme Court oral arguments on a restrictive abortion law in his state “a watershed moment in American history,” saying he’s cautiously optimistic the court will overturn two seminal decisions that secured abortion rights for women nationwide.
“This has been a watershed moment in American history over the last week as this case that many of us in the pro-life movement have hoped would come before the court for many years, and we actually had oral arguments on Wednesday,” Reeves, a Republican, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on Sunday.
The justices “could consider potentially overturning Casey, which was the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case dating back to 1992, or they could overturn Roe v. Wade in 1973, and the commentary around the oral arguments on Wednesday certainly give people like me, who hope that they do both of those things, some reason for optimism,” the governor said.
“But again, I’ve watched enough court cases to know that just because a particular judge or a particular justice is asking certain questions doesn’t mean that’s necessarily how they’re going to rule,” he added.
During oral arguments last week in the case concerning the Mississippi law, which bans abortion 15 weeks into a pregnancy, the 6-3 conservative majority court appeared poised to uphold the law, which had been blocked by two federal courts that held it was contrary to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide prior to viability.
Reeves told Tapper he believes “the justices on the Supreme Court today could look at the Roe v. Wade case and come to the conclusion that the court just simply got it wrong in 1973,” adding that he thinks the issue of abortion access should be left up to individual states.
“I just want to make sure everyone is clear that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, that doesn’t mean no one in America is going to have access — although that might make people like me happy — but what it does mean is that all 50 states, the laboratories of democracy, are going to have the ability to enact their own laws with respect to abortion,” he said. “And I think that’s the way it should be in America.”
Should the court return the issue to the states, the move would almost immediately eviscerate abortion rights in large swaths of the South and the Midwest.
Reeves said if the 1973 landmark ruling is overturned, his state will ban all abortions except in cases of rape or if the life of the mother is in danger.
“That is a ‘yes’ because if you believe as I believe very strongly that an innocent, unborn child in the mother’s womb is in fact a child. The most important word when we talk about ‘unborn children’ is not ‘unborn’ but it’s ‘children.’ And so yes, I will do everything I can to protect the lives of those children,”
Passed in 2018, Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act allows abortion after 15 weeks “only in medical emergencies or for severe fetal abnormality” and has no exception for rape or incest. If doctors perform abortions outside the parameters of the law, they will have their medical licenses suspended or revoked and may be subject to additional penalties and fines.
Sixty percent of Americans say Roe should be upheld, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in November.
This story has been updated with additional details Sunday.