US Supreme Court on Wednesday Heard historical arguments about Mississippi law This would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of gestation and whether decades of legal precedent should be rescinded since Roe v. Wade.
Nearly two hours later, a conservative majority appeared to be headed toward changing the 30-year-old stable law protecting a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy before fetal survival and endorsing the Mississippi ban, which legal scholars say could pave the way for nearly strict new restrictions on abortion. half of the country.
“It seems to me that viability has nothing to do with choice,” Chief Justice John Roberts said. Why is 15 weeks not enough time?
“This is not a dramatic departure from viability,” Roberts added of state law and the line it would draw.
Since the landmark 1973 Roe ruling and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey case that confirmed the decision, the court has never allowed states to prohibit the termination of pregnancy before the fetus remains outside the womb, around 24 weeks, according to medical experts.
Mississippi says Roe’s decision is wrong and that each state should be allowed to set its own policy.
Scott Stewart, Mississippi’s attorney general and former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, spoke first, saying that the case law the Supreme Court set up with Roe and Casey in 1992 had “damaged the democratic process” and “poisoned the law,” adding, “They stifled compromise.”
“For 50 years, they have kept this court at the center of a political battle that can never be resolved,” he said.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor questioned whether the court should consider the case because the legal right to abortion on the basis of feasibility had set a longstanding precedent.
“There was some difference of opinion regarding undue burden, but a woman’s right to choose, the right to control her own body has been fairly defined since Casey and we have never been challenged. She wants us to reject that line of viability and embrace it,” she said. Thirty ( judge) since Casey reaffirmed the baseline of utility. Four said no to members of this court, but 15 judges said yes or had different political backgrounds.
Referring to comments from a Mississippi congressman, she said, “The Senate sponsor said we’re doing this because we have new justices on the Supreme Court,” referring to the court’s new composition with three conservative justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.
“Will this institution escape the stench this creates in the public perception that the constitution and its reading are mere political acts?” She asked.
Justice Stephen Breyer stressed the importance of staring at the decision – the legal principle that courts generally abide by precedent.
“A cassation is under fire in the absence of the most compelling reason to reconsider a watershed decision that would undermine the court’s legitimacy beyond any serious question,” Breyer said.
Jackson Women’s Health and its allies say the Supreme Court’s protection of a woman’s right to choose a procedure is clear and well established and must be respected.
But the current court, with a 6-3, conservative majority, is widely seen as more sympathetic to abortion rights opponents than ever before.
Conservative judges based the current feasibility standard for about 24 weeks, with Judge Samuel Alito calling the line “arbitrary.”
As Julie Rickleman of the Center for Reproductive Rights, representative of Jackson Women’s Health, the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, has argued the impact of pregnancy, Alito replied, “If a woman wants to be free from the burdens of pregnancy, that interest doesn’t go away the moment the line of viability is crossed.” ,” adding, “The fetus has an interest in having a life, and this does not change from the point before and after viability.”
When asked by Justice Thomas to specify the constitutional right involved—whether to abortion, privacy, or autonomy—Rickelman replied, “It’s freedom.”
“It’s the textual protection of the Fourteenth Amendment that a state cannot deprive someone of their liberty without due process of law,” she said.
“Allowing a state to control a woman’s body and compelling her to submit to bodily demands with regard to life-altering risks and consequences considers pregnancy a fundamental deprivation of liberty, and once the court recognizes that an interest in liberty merits increased protection, it needs to draw a practical line of feasibility that logically balances between interests at risk.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh asked whether the court’s decisions in Roe and Casey’s case were initially wrong, and how that would conflict with the stare doctrine.
“The Constitution is neither pro-life nor pro-abortion. If we believe previous precedents are seriously wrong, why not return to impartiality? Does not the history of the exercise of this Court with respect to those issues tell us that the correct answer is actually to return to an attitude of impartiality, and not to uphold these Antecedents the same way you did all those other cases?”
Arguing the Biden administration’s support for abortion providers, Kavanaugh later asked Attorney General Elizabeth Prilugar, “Why should this court be the arbiter rather than Congress?”
“There will be different answers in Mississippi in New York, different answers and Alabama than California because they are two different interests at stake and people in those states might value those interests somewhat differently,” Kavanaugh said, noting that he might support bringing the case back to the states, on the Although he said at the hearings for his assertion that Roe was a “stable law”.
Prilugar replied that it is not up to states to decide whether fundamental rights are respected.
Former writer to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Elena Kagan, Prelugar previously said, “The Court has never overruled a right fundamental to many Americans and so central to their ability to participate fully and equally in society. The Court should not overrule the central element of women’s freedom.”
Judge Amy Connie Barrett, whose personal views on abortion were a big factor during last year’s confirmation hearing, raised doubts about how much that would affect the court if the court sided with Mississippi. “Don’t the safe harbor laws take care of that?” She said, referring to legislation in nearly every state that allows a parent to abandon a newborn child without fear of prosecution in the event that life circumstances render them unable to parent.
Majority of Americans support the Supreme Court’s endorsement of Roe v. Wade and oppose states making it difficult for abortion clinics to operate, according to ABC News/Washington Post. vote This month. Three out of four Americans, including a majority of Republicans, independents and Democrats, say the decision whether or not to have an abortion should be left to the woman and her doctor.
But Americans appear to be more sharply divided over what kind of bans are in place in Mississippi. A poll conducted by Marquette University Law School this month showed that 37% support a 15-week ban, while 32% oppose it.
Overshadowed by the case is the Supreme Court’s decision still pending in a separate dispute over Texas’ unprecedented six-week abortion ban, SB8, which has been in effect for nearly three months and has dominated national headlines.
Texas law judges gave a Very urgent hearing, as the majority seemed skeptical of its enforcement scheme that encourages citizens to sue anyone who aids or abets an illegal abortion for the chance of a $10,000 reward. Many observers assumed that the court would move quickly to suspend the law, but it did not.
A decision is expected in the Mississippi and Texas cases by the end of the court term in June 2022.
The abortion rights battle in the Supreme Court comes as Republican-led states have enacted more than 100 new abortion restrictions so far this year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.
21 states have laws in place that would quickly enforce abortion bans in the event the Roe Supreme Court overturns.
14 states in addition to Washington, D.C., have laws that expressly protect access to abortion care, according to Guttmacher.