Supreme Court seems poised to consider new limits on abortion


A majority of Supreme Court justices appeared poised to consider setting new limits on the right to abortion during oral arguments Wednesday over a Mississippi law that takes direct aim at the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

The Mississippi law at issue, which bans virtually all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, conflicts with the nearly five-decade rule that says states cannot prohibit abortion prior to when a fetus can live outside the womb, known as fetal viability, which occurs around 24 weeks.

But on Wednesday, the court’s conservatives, who constitute a six-member majority on the bench, posed sharp questions about how firmly rooted Roe’s viability standard is in the Constitution.

“If you think that the issue is one of choice, that women should have the choice to terminate their pregnancy, that supposes that there is a point at which they’ve had the fair choice, the opportunity to choice. And why would 15 weeks be an inappropriate line? Viability, it seems to me, doesn't have anything to do with choice. But if it really is an issue about choice, why is 15 weeks not enough time?” Chief Justice John Roberts asked.

Roberts, along with fellow conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett are seen as key votes in a case that conservatives and anti-abortion activists see as their best chance in decades to undermine or even overrule Roe and related decisions.

Kavanaugh asked multiple times why the court is better suited than Congress or the states to referee a highly divisive fight that pits the interests of pregnant people seeking abortion against the interest of fetal life.

“One interest has to prevail over the other at any given point in time,” Kavanaugh said to the U.S. solicitor general, who argued against the Mississippi law.

“Why should this court be the arbiter rather than Congress, the state legislatures, state supreme courts, the people, being able to resolve this? And there'll be different answers in Mississippi than New York, different answers in Alabama than California, because they're two different interests at stake and the people in those states might value those interests somewhat differently.” 

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