WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday challenging Mississippi’s ban on more abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a blockbuster case that has the potential to increase reproductive rights nationwide.
In one of the most closely watched controversies the Supreme Court has dealt with over the years, the judge not only considers whether Mississippi law should be upheld, but also Roy v. Who established the constitutional right to abortion.
Arguments start at 10am EST.
The Jackson County Women’s Health Agency, the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, challenged the law in 2018, claiming it was in conflict with Roe. Two lower federal courts have agreed.
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The Supreme Court, which conservatives hold for a 6-3 advantage for the first time in decades, surprised viewers by agreeing to hear the case. The lower courts have struck similar bans without the intervention of the nation’s highest court. So the decision to take the case suggests that at least some members of the court want to say something about the direction the lower courts have taken on the issue.
Former President Donald Trump has vowed to put the court “automatically” on the road to overthrow. And he nominated three conservative justices, who indicated their displeasure over the decision. Much of the focus during Wednesday’s arguments lies on the two of them: Assistant Justices Brett Kavanagh and Amy Connie Barrett.
The decision will have ramifications beyond Mississippi, with dozens of conservative states poised to ratify similar bans. At least 17 states have implemented “prohibition bans” or already have pre-roe abortion bans when the Supreme Court overturned the landmark ruling, according to the research group Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights.
In Roe v. In Wade, the 7-2 majority established a constitutional right to abortion and allowed people to exercise that right until the end of the second quarter. The 1992 decision ended the trimester framework, and people could get abortions as long as they were viable, the embryo could live outside the womb or in pregnancy for up to 24 weeks.
Abortion rights groups are expected to lean more heavily on the importance that the court adheres to. That argument is set up for Kavanagh and Chief Justice John Roberts, who both expressed concern about the effect of overturning precedent on the court as an apolitical body.
Anti-abortion groups, meanwhile, argue that Roy should be set a precedent in this case because he has wrongly decided. They claim that the legitimacy of the court benefits from the repeal of a right not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.
Surveys show that Americans disagree on the issue. According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, nearly two-thirds say Supreme Court Row should be upheld. A Marquette Law School survey found that 37% of Americans favor abortion after 15 weeks, while 32% oppose that measure.
Experts say the court may try to strike a middle ground by upholding the right to abortion by eliminating viability as a constitutional touchstone. Abortion rights groups say such an outcome would effectively repeal Roe, allowing states to approve more previous cuts to get people into the procedure.
Anti-abortion and abortion rights groups agree on one thing if the court moves in that direction: it will encourage a new round of lawsuits to determine where the new line should be drawn.
The court is likely to decide the case early next summer.