The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on Wednesday in the most significant challenge to abortion rights in three decades.
Six conservative-leaning and three liberal-leaning justices will decide the fate of a Mississippi mandate that outlaws abortions 15 weeks into a pregnancy.
If the state is successful the ruling would overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 case that legalized the practice nationwide.
Arguments are set to begin at 10 a.m. this morning.
Pro-abortion rights and pro-life activists began gathering outside the Supreme Court in the early morning hours.
Police had already set up barriers as the crowds gathered, a sign of the high tensions expected over today’s case.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, a Republican, said late Tuesday that he was confident his state’s effort to squash Roe will prevail.
He told Fox News that ‘the science has changed’ in the decades since the case was first decided.
‘Here’s what we know about a child at 15 weeks. We know that that child has a heartbeat. We know that that child pumps multiple quarts of blood every single day. We know that that baby is developing its lungs. We know that that baby can squeeze its hands, its fingers. And we know that that baby can feel pain,’ Reeves said.
The law, Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, was passed in 2018 and only allows abortions 15 weeks after conception in ‘medical emergencies’ and ‘severe fetal abnormality.’ It makes no exceptions for rape or incest.
On the other end of the suit is Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only legal abortion clinic in the entire state.
The law has already been blocked by two federal courts, but pro-choice activists are watching nervously after the court gave a preview of how it could lean earlier this year in a similar case from Texas.
A late-night ruling handed down by the Supreme Court in September failed to issue an emergency injunction on the Texas Heartbeat Act, which bans most abortions after six weeks, allowing the law to go into effect while it’s being litigated.
That ruling was widely panned by Democrats including President Joe Biden, who called the law ‘un-American.’
The pro-choice Guttmacher Institute estimated that 26 states ‘are certain or likely to ban abortion’ if Roe is overturned today in a recent report.
Pro-abortion group NARAL Pro-Choice America called today’s case a ‘moment of crisis.’
‘The constitutional right to abortion faces a terrifying and unprecedented threat. This moment of crisis is the culmination of the anti-choice movement’s decades-long efforts to undermine the will of the overwhelming majority of people in this country who support the legal right to abortion,’ NARAL President Mini Timmaraju said in a statement.
‘Make no mistake: The future of reproductive freedom is in grave danger, and the time to take bold action to protect it is now.’
Here’s a breakdown of what’s at stake when oral arguments begin for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Thursday:
What is at stake:
The Mississippi law, passed in 2018, directly contradicts the Roe v. Wade ruling, where the court decided that abortion must be legal pre-viability, or around 24 weeks.
The question is whether or not all pre-viability bans are unconstitutional.
Mississippi has asked the court to revisit Roe directly, as well as another landmark 1992 case that upheld abortion rights but allowed some restrictions, Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
A pro-abortion rights activist protests outside the Supreme Court building, ahead of arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, U.S., December 1
Pro-choice activists fear the conservative-leaning court’s decision could lead to anti-abortion laws across the country
Pro-choice and pro-abortion rights activists mix outside the Supreme Court building today
Who is bringing forth the case:
The Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The JWHO, as the state’s only abortion clinic, is suing because it is directly affected by the law.
In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court ruled that states could place restrictions on abortions so long as they did not place an ‘undue burden’ on the patient. That year, the state had eight abortion clinics, seven of which have closed since the ruling.
After the ruling, state lawmakers enacted regulations for abortion providers, including a requirement to pass out pamphlets warning of the potential side effects of abortion and a ban on public funding going toward abortions.
Activists from both sides descended upon Washington in the early morning hours on Wednesday
The case is the culmination of a decades-long battle between pro-life and pro-abortion groups
Pro-life groups have been pushing to overturn Roe v. Wade since it was decided in the 1970s
Police officers erected barriers in anticipation of inflamed tensions during the case
About 50 anti-abortion activists hold a candlelight vigil organized by the Purple Sash Revolution outside the U.S. Supreme Court on November 30
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, a Republican, said late Tuesday that he was confident his state’s effort to squash Roe will prevail
Pro-abortion group NARAL Pro-Choice America called today’s case a ‘moment of crisis’
Pro-life activists are also calling on Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine abortion rights as law
What could come if the Mississippi law is upheld:
Adding Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the bench has strengthened the court’s 6-3 conservative majority and given hope to pro-life lawmakers and activists that the nation could again see a day where states are able to fully outlaw abortion.
The Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The JWHO, as the state’s only abortion clinic, is suing because it is directly affected by the law
The Supreme Court is set to take up its biggest abortion case in 30 years as it decides the fate of a Mississippi abortion law
Twelve states have already enacted ‘trigger laws,’ where if Roe is overturned, abortion in the state would be made illegal immediately without action from the legislature. Twenty-six states are likely to ban abortion quickly if such power is returned to the states.
Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Texas have all passed heartbeat bills, but none except Texas’ have gone into effect due to court intervention.
The JWHO has said that since the Texas law took effect Sept. 1, one-fourth of its patients come from the Lonestar State.
Meanwhile, New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen has warned of a ‘revolution if the court overturns Roe.
‘I hope the Supreme Court is listening to the people of the United States because – to go back to Adam Sexton’s question – I think if you want to see a revolution go ahead, outlaw Roe v. Wade and see what the response is of the public, particularly young people,’ Shaheen said during a virtual event Monday featuring New Hampshire’s entire House and Senate delegation. ‘Because I think that will not be acceptable to young women or young men.’
The other abortion debate at the court:
The hearing comes after the high court earlier heard arguments on Texas’ new abortion law, which bans the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected, around 6 weeks, but attempts to bypass judicial restraints by making private citizens the enforcers. Any private citizen can sue anyone who aided an abortion and is subject to compensation.
Legal experts had thought the court might weigh in on the case before hearing the Mississippi arguments, but no decision has been made.
During arguments, the court appeared to be in favor of blocking the law due to its enforcement measures.
Four of the nine members on the highest court — Chief Justice John Roberts and the three liberal justices — had voted previously to halt enforcement of the Texas Heartbeat Act, which makes no exception for rape or incest.
Two conservative justices appointed by former president Donald Trump — Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — appeared inclined after two hours of oral arguments to also vote to block the novel Texas law.
The court’s six conservative-leaning justices and three liberal-leaning justices will decide the fate of Roe v. Wade
Roe v. Wade faces high-profile conservative opposition:
Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday he believes Roe v. Wade will soon be overturned.
‘Today as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments in those hallowed halls, we are here to declare with one voice ‘no more,’ he said at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. at an event put on by the Susan B. Anthony list.
‘I’m very hopeful and I do believe that Roe v. Wade will be overturned whether it’s now or in the future,’ he said.
He urged the high court to throw the Roe v. Wade decision to the ‘ash heap of history.’