Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, Attorney General Lynn Fitch took a meeting with her communications team. As Mississippi’s top lawyer, she would be the face of the law that could bring down Roe v. Wade, responsible for crafting and publicizing arguments on behalf of the state. That day in July, they’d gathered to discuss their promotion strategy.
Presented with several slogans designed to capture their approach to the case, the attorney general immediately selected a winner.
“Empower Women. Promote Life.”
The motto got right to the crux of Fitch’s argument, while alluding to a belief that has shaped her 12-year political career: Empower women, and they will help themselves.
In the opening brief she submitted in July, Fitch asked the Supreme Court to use Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade. She argued that abortion prevents women from reaching their full potential. When Roe was decided in 1973, she wrote, the justices maintained that an unwanted pregnancy would doom women to “a distressful life and future.” But nearly 50 years later, Fitch claims “sweeping policy advances” now allow women to fully pursue motherhood and a career, stamping out the need for abortion.
To come up with this argument, which underpins the most important abortion case in decades, Fitch said she drew inspiration from her own life. After she and her husband divorced in 2004, she raised three kids as a single mother while ascending to the highest ranks of state government, becoming the state’s first female attorney general and the first Republican attorney general since 1878. The juggling act wasn’t easy, Fitch said — but with hard work and a color-coded calendar, she pulled it off. Now, she said, abortion bans like the one in Mississippi can help other women “have it all.”
Critics immediately descended on Fitch. Abortion activists called her a hypocrite, highlighting her privilege, while a consortium of 154 economists scrutinized her argument in their own amicus brief to the Supreme Court. They pointed out that the United States is one of the only countries without a national paid family leave policy and the average price of child care, adjusted for inflation, has increased by almost 50% in the past three decades.
Fitch stands by her argument. With this Supreme Court case, Fitch said in a television interview, God has presented women with an opportunity. “You have the option in life to really achieve your dreams and goals,” she said, addressing the women of America. “And you can have those beautiful children as well.”
In the eyes of the attorney general, a pregnant woman’s decision is simple, said longtime friend and colleague Laura Jackson.
“The choice in her eyes is always going to be life because she’s proven it can be done.”
In the small town of Holly Springs, Miss., everyone knew the Fitch family. Fitch’s father, Bill, made his money…