ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

What's at stake in U.S. Supreme Court abortion case?

The nine justices are weighing whether to revive Mississippi's ban on abortion starting at 15 weeks of pregnancy, a law blocked by lower courts as clearly in violation of the Roe v. Wade precedent.

Protest near the Supreme Court over abortion rights in Washington
Supporters of abortion rights demonstrate outside the United States Supreme Court in Washington, on June 15, 2022.
EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS
We are part of The Trust Project.

The conservtive-majority U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide in the coming weeks whether to dramatically curb abortion rights when it rules on a case from Mississippi, potentially paving the way to about half of the 50 U.S. states banning or heavily restricting the procedure.

Here is a summary of what's at stake and how the court could rule in the decision expected by early July:

WHAT IS THE PRECEDENT?

The 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that the court could overturn in the pending case held that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides a fundamental right to privacy that protects a woman’s right to abortion.

More on abortion in the U.S.
The town of Prinsburg, pop. 515, is being thrust into the larger, national debate over abortion as it considers an ordinance that would allow residents to file civil lawsuits against abortion providers.
"Does North Dakota really want women with complicated pregnancies to suffer? Does North Dakota really want a critical shortage of qualified obstetricians and to imprison doctors?" columnist Jim Shaw asks. "The legislature must act."
The last remaining DFLer in the Minnesota House who would oppose codifying abortion protections into law appears to be Winona Rep. Gene Pelowski.
Columnist Jim Shaw shares information from Dr. Ana Tobiasz, a Bismarck doctor who specializes in treating high-risk pregnancies. "When they made these laws in North Dakota, they didn’t think about the consequences,” Tobiasz told Shaw. “I’m disgusted, confused and enraged.”
Democratic-NPL Reps. Karla Rose Hanson and Zac Ista asked North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley in August for an opinion addressing what they viewed as conflicts in state law that put pregnant women and medical providers in danger.
Keith Ellison is seeking his second consecutive term as Minnesota's top law enforcement officer while Republican challenger Jim Schultz seeks to break a five decade-long DFL reign in the attorney general’s office.
Saturday, Nov. 5 was the first day that movements looking to place initiated amendments or measures on the 2024 ballot could begin collecting signatures. That day, Dakotans for Health, an organization that has supported several referendums in the past decade, kicked off their drive to change South Dakota's abortion.
This isn't about Romanick's views on abortion, though they are palpable at this point. This is about his inability to recognize the limits of the judicial branch's powers.
Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick wrote in a Monday filing that the state Supreme Court has not previously determined whether North Dakotans have a constitutional right to an abortion.
About 50 people gathered at Minnesota State University Moorhead on Friday, Oct. 28, in a rally for reproductive freedom while listening to abortion-rights candidates and state senators.

The high court reaffirmed abortion rights in the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision that said abortion restrictions cannot place an “undue burden” on the right and most recently in 2016, when the court threw out a Texas law that would have imposed difficult-to-meet requirements on clinics and doctors who provide abortions.

The Roe and Casey decisions determined that states cannot ban abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb, generally viewed by doctors as between 24 and 28 weeks.

ADVERTISEMENT

WHAT IS THE CASE CURRENTLY BEFORE THE COURT?

The nine justices are weighing whether to revive Mississippi's ban on abortion starting at 15 weeks of pregnancy, a law blocked by lower courts as clearly in violation of the Roe v. Wade precedent.

Mississippi's lawyers have urged the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, to overturn Roe entirely. In May, a leaked draft opinion by conservative Justice Samuel Alito suggested that there is a majority to take that step. The court said in a statement announcing an investigation into the leak that the draft was not the court's final word.

Demonstrators protest near the Supreme Court over abortion rights in Washington
Supporters of reproductive rights argue with anti-abortion protestors near the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington on June 13, 2022.
EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS

HOW COULD THE COURT RULE?

Based on December's oral arguments, it appeared the conservative majority was leaning toward upholding the Mississippi law, which would at a minimum gut the central holding of Roe that said states cannot ban abortion pre-viability.

The leaked draft opinion indicated the court could overturn Roe v. Wade altogether. In either scenario, states that want to restrict or ban abortion would have much more leeway to do so, although a total reversal of Roe would make it a lot easier for them.

A scenario in which the court strikes down the Mississippi law does not seem a likely possibility, with the three liberal justices lacking any potential allies from among the conservative justices.

COULD THERE BE A COMPROMISE?

It appears unlikely that a compromise that would meaningfully protect abortion rights is in the cards.

At oral argument, Chief Justice John Roberts seemed interested in a ruling that would uphold the Mississippi law, thereby allowing states to ban abortions before viability, without overruling Roe altogether, but his conservative colleagues did not appear receptive.

ADVERTISEMENT

WHY HAS THE COURT CHANGED COURSE ON ABORTION?

Changes in personnel on the Supreme Court, creating the rock-solid conservative majority, have altered the trajectory on abortion rights. For years, the court had a 5-4 conservative majority that included some moderates like Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor who cast votes to uphold the right to abortion.

That all changed with the four-year presidency of Republican Donald Trump, whose three appointees tilted the court further rightward.

Trump's appointments — Neil Gorsuch in 2017, Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 and Amy Coney Barrett in 2020 — are all likely to be in the majority if the court overturns Roe.

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS IF THE COURT OVERRULES ROE?

If Roe were overturned or limited, many women in the United States who want to end a pregnancy could face the choice of having a potentially dangerous illegal abortion, traveling to another state where the procedure remains legal and available or buying abortion pills online. The procedure would remain legal in liberal-leaning states, more than a dozen of which have laws protecting abortion rights.

Mississippi is among 13 states with so-called trigger laws designed to ban abortion if Roe is overturned. In total 26 states would quickly move to curtail abortion access, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research group.

Some legal experts said that a ruling overturning Roe could imperil other freedoms related to marriage, sexuality and family life including birth control and same-sex marriage.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; editing by Grant McCool.)

People rally for abortion rights outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington
Law enforcement watch as people rally for abortion rights after an anti-climb protective fence was installed outside of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington on May 5, 2022.
LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS

ADVERTISEMENT

______________________________________________________

This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

What to read next
Bing also wrote in the document titled "death note" that he planned to spare a person, whose name was redacted, because she had a special place in his heart, citing his own mother's death from cancer.
Tuesday's bloodshed was the latest episode of gun violence in the United States which has fueled debate over tighter restrictions on access to guns.
Trump was the first president in four decades not to release his tax returns as he sought to keep secret the details of his wealth and the activities of his real estate company, the Trump Organization.
In seeking to dismiss the case, Trump maintained that the attorney general lacked authority to pursue a lawsuit designed to "get" him when neither the public nor the marketplace was harmed.