Roe v. Wade is one of the most challenged rulings in American history regarding women's rights. Today the future of abortion rights looks uncertain. The Supreme Court heard arguments on Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban on Dec. 1. Within the arguments, Roe v Wade was challenged directly and now many are wondering whether the Supreme Court overturn the landmark case.
Let's explore the case being debated and how questions asked by the five conservative members of the court have made abortion supporters worry about the future of Roe.
Mississippi's abortion ban at 15-weeks
Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization was the case before the Supreme Court on Dec. 1. Mississippi currently has a law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. General Stewart's argument on behalf of the petitioners urges the Supreme Court to overturn all previous rulings concerning abortion and give the power back to the states to decide at how many weeks abortions are legal, if at all.
Currently, the language of the Roe opinion supports the right of women to have an abortion within the first two trimesters of pregnancy, which is between 22 and 24 weeks. Note that the Supreme Court has not previously upheld an abortion ban before 24 weeks and more than half the states have indicated they would heavily restrict or outright ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
A conservative leaning Supreme Court
NBC News reported that at least four of the court's conservatives, Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch are prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade based on their opinion that it was “wrongly decided.” Kavanaugh in particular listed instances where the court overturned long-upheld decisions such as Plessy v. Ferguson, which sanctioned segregation and Bowers v. Hardwick, which protected anti-sodomy laws.
However, Chief Justice Roberts seeks to uphold Mississippi’s ban without overturning Roe v. Wade. Justice Elena Kagan stated the courts must not bend recklessly “depending on what part of the public yells the loudest or changes to the court’s membership.” Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that 15 justices over 50 years have upheld Roe v. Wade, so if the courts were to overturn it now, it would only be because the Supreme Court is now comprised of a conservative majority.
Justice Sotomayor asked Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart, regarding what promoted the drive to overturn Roe v. Wade, “How is your interest anything but a religious view? The issue of when life begins has been hotly debated by philosophers since the beginning of time. It’s still debated in religions. So when you say this is the only right that takes away from the state the ability to protect a life, that’s a religious view, isn’t it?”
The Future of Roe v. Wade
President Biden has reaffirmed his support of Roe v. Wade as the Supreme Court reviews the Mississippi law. "I think it’s a rational position to take, and I continue to support it.” Now that arguments have ended, the Supreme Court must deliberate on the fate of abortion rights. CNN noted regardless of the ruling, "what’s going to matter is the language in the final opinion.” For the next week, each Justice will cast their vote along with their reasons, but the final opinion is not expected until June or July 2022.