- Liberal judges warn of overturning precedents
- Mississippi law prohibits abortion at 15 weeks pregnant
- Biden’s lawyer denounces rights ‘contraction’
WASHINGTON, Dec.1 (Reuters) – Conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices on Wednesday signaled their willingness to drastically restrict abortion rights in America and possibly overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade of 1973 who legalized the procedure nationwide because they indicated they would maintain a restrictive Republican. -supported Mississippi law.
The court, which has a 6-3 Tory majority, heard about two hours of oral argument in the southern state’s attempt to reactivate its ban on abortion from 15 weeks pregnant, a law blocked by lower courts. Liberal judges warned against dropping long and important legal precedents like Roe and dropping a right that American women have come to rely on.
The Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, has challenged the law and has the backing of the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden. A decision is expected by the end of June.
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Roe v. Wade acknowledged that the right to privacy under the United States Constitution protects a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy. The Supreme Court, in a 1992 decision entitled Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, reaffirmed abortion rights and outlawed laws imposing “excessive demands” on access to abortion. Mississippi has called on the judges to overturn the Roe and Casey decisions.
Conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh expressed a view often expressed by opponents of abortion that nothing in the Constitution protects abortion rights.
“The Constitution is neither pro-life nor pro-choice on the issue of abortion, but leaves the matter to the people of the States or perhaps Congress to resolve the democratic process,” Kavanaugh said.
If Roe were canceled, many states would “continue to freely allow abortion,” Kavanaugh added. Before the Roe ruling, many states prohibited abortion.
Julie Rikelman, arguing for the abortion clinic, said canceling Roe would not mean the court is neutral on abortion, as Kavanaugh suggested.
“Women have an equal right to liberty under the Constitution, Your Honor, and if they are not able to make this decision, if states can take control of women’s bodies and force them to endure months. pregnancy and childbirth, then they don’t have equal status under the Constitution, ”Rikelman told Kavanaugh.
About one in four American women has had an abortion, Rikelman added.
‘SURVIVE THE STRENGTH’
Liberal Judge Sonia Sotomayor said Mississippi officials sought to bring the issue to judges solely because of the court’s right turn.
“Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are only political acts?” Sotomayor asked.
Kavanaugh and Judge Amy Coney Barrett – both appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump, who promised to appoint judges who would overthrow Roe – could be key votes in determining how far the court will go. Barrett said setting aside a major precedent is justified in some cases, but questioned whether “public reaction” should be considered.
Barrett also asked whether the recent passage in some states of “safe haven” laws, which allow women to hand unwanted babies to health facilities without penalty, undermines some justifications for abortions because women are not. constraints to motherhood simply by giving birth.
Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts suggested the court could enforce Mississippi law without overthrowing Roe. It was unclear if the other five Conservatives would stop before overthrowing Roe.
“Why isn’t 15 weeks enough” for a woman to decide to have an abortion, Roberts asked.
Mississippi’s ban is part of a series of restrictive abortion laws passed in Republican-ruled states in recent years. On November 1, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding a Texas law banning abortion at around six weeks pregnant, but has yet to render a decision.
Anti-abortion activists believe they are closer than ever to toppling Roe, a long-standing goal for Christian conservatives.
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Conservative justices downplayed the idea that the court should be careful to overturn its own precedents, noting that it has done so in many contexts, including overturning a notorious 1895 ruling allowing racial segregation.
“So there are circumstances in which a decision (…) must be overturned simply because it was extremely bad at the time it was taken,” said conservative judge Samuel Alito.
US Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, representing the Biden administration, said the overthrow of Roe would be an “unprecedented contraction” of individual rights.
“The court has never revoked a right so fundamental to so many Americans and so essential to their ability to participate fully and equitably in society,” said Prelogar.
Opinion polls show that a majority of Americans support the right to abortion.
The Roe and Casey decisions determined that states cannot ban abortion until a fetus is viable outside the womb, typically considered by doctors to be between 24 and 28 weeks. Mississippi’s 15-week ban calls that into question. Roberts said a 15-week ban is “not a dramatic departure” from viability.
Scott Stewart, advocating for Mississippi, said the Roe and Casey decisions “haunt our country.”
“They have no basis in the Constitution. They have no place in our history or our traditions. They have damaged the democratic process. They poisoned the law. They stifled compromise, ”said Stewart.
Mississippi is one of 12 states with so-called trigger laws designed to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is canceled. Additional states would likely quickly reduce access to abortion. (See associated graphic)
If Roe were canceled or restricted, in large areas of America, women wishing to terminate a pregnancy might have the choice of a potentially unsafe illegal abortion, travel to another state where the procedure remains legal and available, or l purchase of abortion pills online. The procedure would remain legal in liberal-leaning states, 15 of which have laws protecting abortion rights.
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Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter, Jan Wolfe and Julia Harte; Editing by Will Dunham
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