The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday in the most important abortion case it has heard since it established the constitutional right of procedure in Roe v. Wade in 1973.
Case Focus, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, on a Mississippi law banning nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a direct challenge to the central argument in Roe v. Wade. The outcome of the case could redefine abortion rights in the United States and have profound implications not only for reproductive rights, but for nearly every sector of American society, from health care and criminal justice to labor participation. And the economy.
The stakes are especially high because the Supreme Court has become more conservative in recent years. When Mississippi officials asked the Supreme Court to hear the case in 2020, conservative justices outnumbered liberals 5 to 4. But after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and confirmation of Trump’s Emmy nominee , Connie Barrett, the court drifted to the right. He now has a 6-3 majority portfolio.
Starting last year, the judges spent months debating whether to listen to Dobbs v. Jackson for Women’s Health. When they announced in May that they would consider it, reproductive rights groups expressed surprise. The decision to consider the case indicates that the majority was willing to reconsider the basic premise of Roe v. Wade, who states that states cannot restrict abortion before the fetus is alive, usually around 24 weeks gestation.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will consider the question of whether all prohibitions on abortion before it was enforceable were unconstitutional. The state of Mississippi also asked the court to immediately evict Roe, as well as Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion. In a state brief, served over the summer, Mississippi Republican Attorney General Lynn Fitch argued that both precedents are “non-principal decisions” that have no basis in the Constitution and that states should be allowed to ban abortion if the laws support legitimate government interests.
Legal experts largely agree that the court will likely avoid absolute invalidation of Roe and instead pass a decision allowing more restrictions on abortion while technically leaving the 50-year-old decision behind. But abortion rights advocates say that any decision allowing Mississippi law to stand will effectively affect abortion rights by opening a way for states to restrict the procedure more strictly.