The conservative majority of the US Supreme Court said Wednesday that it would uphold Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban and could go much further to nullify the national right to abortion that has existed for nearly 50 years.
The fate of the historic Roe v. Wade’s 1973 court that legalized abortion across America and his 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, who reaffirmed Roe, probably won’t be known until next June.
But after nearly two hours of arguing in the largest abortion case to reach the nation’s highest court in 50 years, all six conservative justices, including three appointed by former President Donald Trump, indicated that they would abide by Mississippi law. .
At the very least, such a decision would undermine Roe and Casey, who allow states to regulate but not ban abortion to the point of viability, at approximately 24 weeks.
Abortion would soon become illegal or severely restricted in about half the states if Roe and Casey are revoked, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.
Legislatures in many Republican-led states are poised for action depending on the next Supreme Court decision.
The court’s three liberal justices said repealing Roe and Casey would significantly damage the court’s legitimacy.
At least four of the six conservative court justices appeared poised to overthrow Roe and Casey.
Mississippi Attorney General Scott Stewart urged the court to uphold the state’s 15-week ban and overturn historic past cases that enshrined women’s constitutional right to abortion.
While acknowledging that abortion is a “difficult subject,” Stewart argued that individual states should have the right to set their own rules.
“When an issue affects everyone and when the Constitution does not take sides on it, it belongs to the people,” he said. “This court should invalidate Roe and Casey and respect state law.”
Two conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch, seemed to favor a more cautious approach: maintaining the 15-week ban in Mississippi without going so far as to wipe out Roe and Casey.
‘Fundamental deprivation’ of women’s freedoms
Attorney Julie Rikelman, arguing against the Mississippi law for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said it is “flatly unconstitutional.”
“For a state to take control of a woman’s body and require her to go through pregnancy and childbirth, with all the physical risks and life-altering consequences that come with it, is a fundamental deprivation of her freedom,” added Rikelman .
Rikelman advocated keeping viability as the legal limit for an abortion. “Without viability, there will be no stopping point,” he said. “States will rush to ban abortion at virtually any time during pregnancy.”
Attorney General Elizabeth Prelogar, representing the Biden administration, said the court “has never revoked a right that is so fundamental to so many Americans and so central to their ability to participate fully and equally in society.”
“The real-world effects of nullifying Roe and Casey would be severe and rapid,” Prelogar noted.
Speaking after the court session, President Joe Biden said he supports keeping Roe.
“I think it is a rational position to take. And I continue to support it,” he said.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of the three liberal magistrates, suggested that the revocation of Roe would give the impression that the court is a political body and not a judicial one.
“Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in public perception, that the Constitution and its reading are only political acts?” she asked.
“The right of a woman to choose, the right to control her own body has been clearly established,” she continued.
‘Fundamental right of women’
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who was nominated by Trump, made clear that he believed states should regulate access to abortion.
“Why should this court be the arbiter instead of Congress, the state legislatures, the state supreme courts, the people?” Kavanaugh said.
“There will be different responses in Mississippi, in New York. Different responses in Alabama than in California,” he continued. “Why isn’t that the correct answer?”
But Attorney General Prelogar said it was not the correct answer because the court has recognized that abortion is a “fundamental right of women.”
“And the nature of fundamental rights is that it is not up to the state legislatures to decide whether to respect them or not,” he said.
The other Trump-nominated judge, Amy Coney Barrett, repeatedly asked why adoption cannot be considered a viable alternative to abortion.
The 2018 law passed by the legislature in Mississippi, a conservative Biblical belt state, was blocked as unconstitutional by lower courts before ending up in the Supreme Court.
When the court heard the arguments of the two sides on Wednesday, hundreds of pro-choice activists and anti-abortion protesters gathered outside carrying placards and banners and chanting slogans.
“Abortion is murder,” read the posters carried by anti-abortion protesters. “Abortion is medical care,” read a sign displayed by supporters of abortion rights.
The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision in June.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism