The future of abortion law is at stake on Wednesday in the United States Supreme Court, which has been radically reshuffled under Donald Trump’s presidency. The court hears a bill from the state of Mississippi. The ruling may turn back time fifty years on abortion.
The nine judges, including six conservatives, will deal with a 2018 Mississippi bill from 10 a.m. local time. The draft prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A ruling is expected in the spring.
The bill nevertheless violates the legal framework of the Supreme Court, judging by other legislation passed in recent years. But by agreeing to hear the law, the court sent a signal that it was willing to review that framework.
For this, one has to go back to 1973. Then, in the critical Roe v. Wade judgment, the court ruled that the constitution gives women the right to abortion, and states cannot deny them that. In 1992 the court clarified that this applies as long as the fetus is not “viable”, around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The federal courts, taking into account that case law, blocked the Mississippi law before it went into effect. Those in charge of the very rural and religious state then went to the Supreme Court.
When the Supreme Court accepted the appeal, though not obliged to do so, it explained that it was willing to dwell on the line of “viability.” But Mississippi today asks to go even further and ultimately overturn the 1973 judgment.
“We are aware of the impact of our request,” state Attorney General Lynn Fith said in an op-ed in the Washington Post. “But 49 years ago, the court overruled political intuition over solid legal reasoning to reach a constitutionally unfounded conclusion. It is time to correct that mistake.”
All sections of the Republican Party have already expressed their support, as have the Catholic Church and numerous anti-abortion organizations. In addition, millions of dollars have been spent on ad campaigns for the session. “We are about to enter a new era where the Supreme Court will relegate the Roe v. Wade judgment to the forgotten pits of history where it has always belonged,” said former Vice President Mike Pence, an ultra-conservative Christian day before the session.
Former President Donald Trump appointed three conservative judges to the court. In this way, the conservative majority was strengthened. Their influence was already felt on September 1, when the court refused on procedural grounds to block the enactment of abortion law in Texas. Instead, it prohibits abortion from six weeks of pregnancy. The case has since been reopened, but the final decision has yet to be made. Many Texans, therefore, have to go to another state for an abortion.