In what may be the biggest Supreme Court abortion case since Roe V. Wade, the court heard arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Wednesday. The case directly challenges Roe V. Wade, as well as the 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. According to the decisions in both those cases, states can regulate but not ban abortion up until the point of viability, at roughly 24 weeks. Hundreds of demonstrators on both sides of the abortion issue gathered outside the Court as arguments unfolded.
The case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health centers around a Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks.
“Mississippi’s ban on abortion two months before viability is flatly unconstitutional under decades of precedent,” Julie Rikleman, arguing on behalf of Jackson Women’s health, said Wednesday. “Mississippi asks the courts to dismantle this precedent and allow states to force women to remain pregnant and give birth against their will.”
Meanwhile, lawyers for the state of Mississippi say Roe v. Wade is “egregiously wrong”. They argued the constitution doesn’t mention a right to abortion.
Hearing the abortion case arguments, some of the Conservative justices on the Supreme Court focused in on the concept of viability itself. “Why is 15 weeks not enough time?” Chief Justice John Roberts asked at one point during the arguments. Justice Samuel Alito brought up those who have said the line of viability “really doesn’t make any sense.”
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s three liberal justices said reversing Roe and Casey would severely damage the court’s legitimacy. Justice Elena Kagan implied a reversal could lead people to think “this court is a political institution” that “will go back and forth depending on changes to the court’s membership.”
“Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked during arguments. “If people actually believe that it’s all political how will we survive? How will the court survive?”
A Supreme Court decision in the abortion case is expected by next summer. If the court does overrule Roe v. Wade, about half the states in the country would be set to either ban abortion entirely or ban it at very early points in pregnancy.