U.S. Supreme Court takes up major challenge to abortion rights
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider gutting the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, taking up Mississippi's bid to revive a Republican-backed state law that bans the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
By hearing the case in their next term, which starts in October and ends in June 2022, the justices will look at whether to overturn a central part of the landmark ruling, a longstanding goal of religious conservatives.
The eventual ruling by the conservative-majority court, expected next year, could allow states to ban abortions before a fetus is viable outside the womb, upending decades of legal precedent.
Lower courts ruled against Mississippi's law.
In the Roe v. Wade decision, subsequently reaffirmed in 1992, the court said that states could not ban abortion before the viability of the fetus outside the womb, which is generally viewed by doctors as between 24 and 28 weeks.
The Mississippi law would ban abortion much earlier than that. Other states have backed laws that would ban the procedure even earlier.
"Alarm bells are ringing loudly about the threat to reproductive rights. The Supreme Court just agreed to review an abortion ban that unquestionably violates nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent and is a test case to overturn Roe v. Wade," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is among those challenging the law.
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, a Republican, said she is committed to defending the law's constitutionality.
"The Mississippi legislature enacted this law consistent with the will of its constituents to promote women's health and preserve the dignity and sanctity of life. I remain committed to advocating for women and defending Mississippi's legal right to protect the unborn," Fitch said.
The Roe v. Wade ruling recognized that a constitutional right to personal privacy protects a woman's ability to obtain an abortion.
The court in its 1992 decision, coming in the case Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, reaffirmed the ruling and prohibited laws that place an "undue burden" on a woman's ability to obtain an abortion.
Abortion opponents are hopeful the Supreme Court will narrow or overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.
The court has a 6-3 conservative majority following the addition last year of Republican former President Donald Trump's third appointee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Democratic President Joe Biden's administration is committed to defending abortion rights.
Psaki said abortion and access to healthcare have come under "withering and extreme attack" in recent years including through "draconian state laws."