Politics & Policy

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Major Abortion Case

The nine Supreme Court justices pose for a group photo in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2021. (Erin Schaff/Reuters)

The Supreme Court is set to hear a major abortion case that will give the justices an opportunity to reconsider the precedent set by the landmark Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey decisions.

The Court on Monday announced in an order that it would take the case involving a Mississippi law passed in 2018 that bans abortions after 15 weeks with limited exceptions.

The law was blocked by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as under existing precedent, states may not ban abortions before fetal viability, which is typically around 22 weeks or later.

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, asks whether all pre-viability restrictions on abortion are unconstitutional.

Mississippi is asking the justices to review the viability standard, arguing that the rule prevents states from defending maternal health and its interest in protecting life. 

“It is well past time for the Court to revisit the wisdom of the viability bright-line rule,” Mississippi attorney general Lynn Fitch wrote in a brief filed with the justices. 

Jackson Women’s Health Organization, an abortion clinic in Mississippi, asked the court not to take the case.

“In an unbroken line of decisions over the last fifty years, this Court has held that the Constitution guarantees each person the right to decide whether to continue a pre-viability pregnancy,” Hillary Schneller, an attorney for the clinic, wrote in a filing.

Schneller claimed that the state’s argument was “based on a misunderstanding of the core principle of” earlier Supreme Court decisions.

“While the State has interests throughout pregnancy, ‘[b]efore viability, the State’s interests are not strong enough to support a prohibition of abortion,'” she wrote.

It will be the first abortion case to be argued before the Supreme Court since Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed, creating a 6-3 conservative majority on the court.

In a statement on Monday, March for Life president Jeanne Mancini noted that the U.S. is one of only seven countries, including China and North Korea, that allows abortions through all nine months of pregnancy.

“An overwhelming majority of Americans agree that this goes way too far, in fact 70 percent think abortion should be limited to — at most — the first three months of pregnancy,” she said. “States should be allowed to craft laws that are in line with both public opinion on this issue as well as basic human compassion, instead of the extreme policy that Roe imposed.”

The court will hear the case in its term beginning in October. It is likely to reach a decision by June of 2022.

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