With conservative court, a woman’s right to an abortion could be in danger

Justices have taken a case that could result in a bedrock precedent being overturned. On Monday, the high court agreed to weigh in on a Mississippi state law that bans abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy.

By

Opinion

May 19, 2021 - 8:37 AM

A tree blooms around a barbed wire fence behind US Supreme Court Building on March 17, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Mihoko Owada/Sipa USA/TNS)

For the nearly five decades since the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion, that right has been under attack by state legislators. But the high court has stood by its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade over and over again in the rulings that followed.

Now the justices have taken a case that could result in that bedrock precedent — a pillar of a woman’s ability to control her body and her life — being overturned. On Monday, the high court agreed to weigh in on a Mississippi state law that bans abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy. A federal district court and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals both found the law unconstitutional because Roe guarantees a right to an abortion up to the point when a fetus would be viable outside the woman’s body, which is around 24 weeks of gestation.

States have passed hundreds of unnecessary restrictions on abortion, including mandatory waiting periods, compulsory sonogram viewings and requirements that abortion clinics be outfitted like surgical centers. But states have never been able to get away with an outright ban on abortion before viability. When they do pass laws banning abortion at six weeks or 12 weeks, for example, the laws, when they are challenged, always get blocked by federal district and appeals courts, as happened with Mississippi’s 15-week cutoff. The Supreme Court has consistently refused to hear any of those cases.

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