On December 1, the Supreme Court of the United States began hearing arguments in what could shape up to be a landmark ruling in a case challenging Roe v. Wade, which set a legal precedent prohibiting states from banning abortion prior to viability (the point in pregnancy when a baby could survive outside of the womb).
According to CNBC, Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health centers on a Mississippi law that would ban almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
If the court rules in favor of Mississippi’s abortion ban, it would mean setting a new precedent, putting the power of abortion regulation back into the state governments’ hands.
The current panel of supreme court justices leans conservative, with a 6-3 majority. According to the Washington Post, this conservative majority has led abortion activists (both pro-abortion and anti-abortion) to speculate that the court may overturn Roe v. Wade in this hearing.
Now, some of these speculations appear to be coming to fruition as the supreme court justices mull over the implications of ruling to support Mississippi’s (and other states’) right to enforce 15-week limits or other abortion regulations.
During the hearings on December 1, Chief Justice John Roberts mentioned several times that the current line of “viability,” drawn by the Roe v. Wade decision, was an arbitrarily drawn line for abortion regulation.
According to MSN, Roberts seemed open to retaining limited abortion access for women in the earliest stages of pregnancy, perhaps sooner than the existing point of viability regulation.
Chief Justice Roberts’ apparent stance would allow states flexibility to ban abortions after 15 weeks rather than after the current approximately 23-week federal law.
This would significantly change the landscape of abortion arguments, regulation, and procedure performance in the United States.
Should Mississippi’s law be upheld, overturning the precedent set by Roe v. Wade nearly fifty years ago, this would provide much stronger traction for proponents of the Texas Heartbeat Act. This law recently passed in the Texas legislature bans abortions after the “unborn child’s heartbeat can be detected” at approximately six weeks of pregnancy.
Conservative activist and independent journalist Vianca Rodriguez told the Dallas Express how she feels about women’s rights and the girl power displayed by these abortion arguments.
“I think the Texas pro-life agenda at this moment has a higher likelihood of passing than it did decades ago. Roe v. Wade was passed almost unanimously by men,” Rodriguez said. “Today’s Supreme Court counts with female perspectives, as well, and with a majority of conservative judges.”
The five conservative justices vary in the depth and breadth of change they seem inclined to make to the existing legal precedent.
According to MSN, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett have each spoken out in the past criticizing the constitutionality of the Roe v. Wade decision. Clarence Thomas and Amy C. Barrett also questioned the validity of Roe v. Wade during the hearing.
The final conservative Justice Samuel Alito appears to be in some middle ground, with MSN reporting he “appears a definite vote to uphold the 15-week Mississippi ban but perhaps to postpone a final judgment on Roe.”
The three liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, appear to be a united front on the matter of abortion access, Roe v. Wade, and Mississippi’s 15-week ban.