Court Battles

Supreme Court to hear Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban case Dec. 1

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The Supreme Court announced Monday it will hear arguments Dec. 1 on a Mississippi abortion restriction that poses a direct challenge to the landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Oral arguments will take place just a few months after the court’s recent move to allow Texas’s six-week abortion ban to take effect, a ruling that left abortion opponents hopeful about their prospects in the upcoming dispute over Mississippi’s 15-week ban.

The court agreed in May to take up the dispute, but anticipation over the case’s timeline has grown exponentially after the court’s Texas ruling signaled a likelihood that the justices could more formally curtail abortion rights when they decide the Mississippi case, with a decision expected by late June. 

Challengers to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban say that it should be invalidated under Roe v. Wade, which recognized a constitutional right to abortion before a fetus is viable, typically around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

The challengers, a coalition of abortion providers and advocates, won in the lower courts. In 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled Mississippi’s restriction unconstitutional, prompting the state to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R), who is defending the law, explicitly urged the justices to use the case as a vehicle to overrule Roe and related rulings, calling the court’s precedent on abortion “egregiously wrong.”

A dozen Republican governors in a friend-of-the-court brief have also asked the justices to eliminate federal abortion protections in order to allow states to regulate the procedure.

Many court watchers saw the Supreme Court’s recent refusal to block the new Texas ban on most abortions as foreshadowing the possible further erosion of reproductive rights by the conservative-majority court.

At issue in that case was Texas’s S.B. 8, which was signed into law in May by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and took effect on Sept. 1. Later that same night, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote rejected an emergency request from abortion providers to block the measure. 

The five conservative Supreme Court justices who comprised the majority said procedural complexities helped determine the court’s refusal to block the Texas law. But they added that the ruling did not seek to resolve the “serious questions” about the constitutionality of Texas’s law.  

Experts who spoke to The Hill after the court’s Texas ruling said they expect the justices to uphold the Mississippi restrictions and reverse key elements of Roe and related rulings in the upcoming term, though there was little consensus over just how far the Supreme Court might go in paring back the federal protections.

Updated at 1:31 p.m.

Tags Abortion Abortion law abortion restrictions abortion rights Greg Abbott Mississippi Mississippi abortion law Roe v. Wade Supreme Court

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