Supreme Court Takes Up Abortion Case That Advocates Worry Could Erode Roe v. Wade Protections

The Supreme Court said Monday it will review Mississippi’s new abortion restrictions amid growing concerns among reproductive health advocates that the court’s new conservative supermajority may begin to erode Roe v. Wade protections, The Washington Post reports.

Republican-led states have been working for months since Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to get the Supreme Court to review abortion restrictions by passing increasingly prohibitive bills that run counter to the court’s 1973 Roe ruling. Mississippi, which passed a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks, will get the first crack at the new-look court.

The Mississippi law, which only includes narrow exemptions for medical emergencies and fetal abnormalities, has not gone into effect because it was blocked a federal judge for violating the Roe precedent. That ruling was upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and reaffirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability,”  said the appeals court’s majority opinion. “States may regulate abortion procedures before viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right but they may not ban abortions.”

But the Supreme Court said it will review whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”

Activists react:

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, called the case a “landmark opportunity.”

“Across the nation, state lawmakers acting on the will of the people have introduced 536 pro-life bills aimed at humanizing our laws and challenging the radical status quo imposed by Roe,” she said. “It is time for the Supreme Court to catch up to scientific reality and the resulting consensus of the American people as expressed in elections and policy.”

Abortion rights advocates said the court’s move set off “alarm bells.”

“The Supreme Court just agreed to review an abortion ban that unquestionably violates nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent and is a test case to overturn Roe v. Wade,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“This is not a drill,” said Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute. “The decision comes at a time when conservative politicians in over a dozen states are dismantling abortion rights and access with a vengeance and could eclipse even the record of enacted restrictions set in 2011.”

Legal experts say case poses threat to Roe:

Mary Ziegler, a Florida State University law professor and author of “Abortion and the Law in America: Roe v. Wade to the Present,” told The Washington Post that it was “impossible to overstate” the threat the case poses to Roe but said the court does not have to overturn Roe entirely to roll back protections because it can eliminate fetal viability as the point at which bans are allowed.

“Without viability, it is not clear whether the court will impose any limit on abortion bans,” she said.


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