The Supreme Court heard Wednesday oral arguments in the biggest abortion rights case in decades, and is signaling it may strip back abortion rights, as experts have feared.
The high court has a conservative majority, some of which have indicated in the past that they were looking to overturn abortion rights. On Wednesday, the conservative justices gave sign once again this was the case, and that they will allow states to individually ban abortion much earlier in pregnancy than was guaranteed for the past half century by Roe v. Wade.
In 1973, Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide. In 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey reaffirmed safe access to abortion and reaffirmed the Roe ruling. Now, in 2021, Dobbs v. Jackson could soon shatter abortion rights.
Dobbs v. Jackson, experts say, is the biggest challenge to abortion rights to be heard since Roe v. Wade. In 2018, the state of Mississippi’s Republican majority legislature passed a new law that banned abortions after 15 weeks, about nine weeks before the guaranteed cutoff from Roe.
There is only one sole remaining abortion provider in the whole state, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The clinic sued the state for its 2018 law, saying that it directly challenges precedents set in Roe as well as Casey, which established and affirmed a woman’s right to an abortion, respectively. The case has finally made its way to the Supreme Court.
Two hours of arguments were heard on Wednesday, and conservative Supremes are showing they will likely allow Mississippi to keep its ban.
This would effectively completely overturn Roe, making it the biggest Supreme Court reversal ever.
A decision is not expected officially until June. But how it stands now, women’s rights experts have said that if allowed to stay, the Mississippi ban will cause profound damage to women’s equality and freedom, as well as damage to the rule of law overall.
At least 12 states have “trigger laws” in place if Mississippi’s ban holds up, putting into place laws that would immediately ban abortion. The average distance to an abortion clinic would skyrocket from 25 miles to 125 miles, meaning that women’s access to safe abortions will be destroyed.
Most Americans support abortion rights. According to Gallup polls, American support for abortion in all or most cases is at 80 percent.
Mississippi’s law could offset a new normal in the U.S. where women today have much less control over healthcare and their bodies than their mothers or grandmothers did.