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Supreme Court to consider taking up Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban

The Supreme Court on Friday will consider whether to review a Mississippi law that bans virtually all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which could set the newly 6-3 conservative majority court on a collision course with the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

The dispute over Mississippi’s pre-viability abortion ban also represents a major test for the newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettCardinal Dolan hails Supreme Court decision on churches, COVID-19 Cuomo blames new conservative majority for High Court's COVID-19 decision Supreme Court blocks New York coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship MORE, who will have been on the court less than a week when the justices gather privately to decide what new cases to add to the court’s docket.

The court could announce as soon as Monday whether it has agreed to take up the petition brought by Mississippi’s Republican attorney general, which would offer perhaps the most important clue to date about the high court’s direction following the death of Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgCardinal Dolan hails Supreme Court decision on churches, COVID-19 Cuomo blames new conservative majority for High Court's COVID-19 decision Supreme Court blocks New York coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship MORE.

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“You’d expect justices who have been champing at the bit on certain issues like guns, affirmative action or abortion would be more likely to want to get some cases in the hopper and put some pressure on Amy Coney Barrett right away,” said Robert Tsai, a law professor at American University. He added, however, that Barrett "might want to get her sea legs at first and avoid being on the record on certain things like abortion.”

The approval of four justices is needed to grant a petition.

A razor-thin 5-4 majority voted to block a Louisiana abortion restriction last term, with Chief Justice John Roberts casting the deciding vote alongside Ginsburg and the court’s three other more liberal justices.

But under the newly cemented 6-3 conservative court, Barrett would hold the key vote if she were to join the court’s four more conservative members in deciding future abortion rights cases.

Prior to Ginsburg’s death, the justices were slated to discuss whether to take up the restrictive Mississippi abortion law, which bans abortion after 15 weeks with only limited exceptions. But four days after Ginsburg’s death last month, discussion of the abortion petition was postponed to an unspecified later date.

On Monday, the court indicated that it would discuss it at the justices’ upcoming Friday conference.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R) is appealing a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. That court sided with challengers to Mississippi’s pre-viability abortion ban, holding that the restriction placed an unconstitutional burden on a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy before viability.