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Monday, March 20, 2023

Top US Supreme Court Judges Signal Support for Abortion Limits

The Supreme Court of the United States appears to be leaning toward upholding a Mississippi law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in situations of rape or incest.

During the case’s hearing on Wednesday, conservative judges signaled that the law will be upheld by a majority of the court.

Millions of women may lose access to abortion if a verdict is issued in June.

Anti-abortion campaigners are petitioning the court to “defend unborn children,” while scientists warn that restricting abortion will increase maternal mortality.

This case, known as Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is seen by both sides of the issue as an all-or-nothing battle over abortion rights.

Defenders of the Mississippi legislation have sought the Supreme Court to reverse two prior landmark abortion judgments.

The first, Roe v Wade, established an absolute right to abortion in the first three months of pregnancy for women in the United States, with restricted rights in the second trimester.

The Supreme Court held in Planned Parenthood v Casey in 1992 that states could not impose a “undue hardship” on women seeking abortions before a baby could live outside the womb, which is around 24 weeks.

The “foetal viability” requirement has served as a red line in abortion legislation in the years afterwards, prohibiting any restrictions on abortion prior to this period.

Anti-abortion activists, on the other hand, are hoping that the court’s present ideological complexion has opened a fresh opening. The court has been dubbed the most conservative in contemporary US history, thanks to three selections made by former President Donald Trump.

Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart told the court on Wednesday that the Roe and Casey decisions “haunt our country” and “poison the law,” despite the court’s conservative majority of 6-to-3.

He went against the current foetal viability criteria, claiming that it was not “tethered” to the Constitution.

“There’s so much that isn’t in the Constitution,” said leftist Justice Sonya Sotomayor in response to this allegation.

She cautioned that if Americans regarded the court as a political body, intervening to overturn Roe and Casey, the court “would not recover.”

“The smell that this produces in the public view” would be too much for the court to bear.

In addition, Justice Sotomayor questioned whether a foetus could experience pain before the age of 24 weeks.

“An embryonic life being prodded and then recoiling in the manner one of us would flinch,” Mr Stewart said.

According to Justice Sotomayor, 40 percent of deceased people’s feet will recoil if touched. She also mentioned that persons who are brain dead can respond to stimuli.

“So I don’t think a foetal’s response to… shows that there’s a feeling of pain or that there’s consciousness,” she continued.

Representing the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s only abortion facility, The Center for Reproductive Rights’ Julie Rikelman testified next, pleading with the court to overturn the Mississippi statute.

“Under decades of precedent, Mississippi’s restriction on abortion two months before viability is plainly unlawful,” Ms Rickelman said. The bill in Mississippi will “compel women to stay pregnant and give birth against their choice.”

On behalf of the Biden administration, US Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar stood out against the Mississippi abortion restriction.

“Overruling Roe and Casey would have serious and quick consequences in the real world,” she said, adding that women have learned to rely on this “basic right.”

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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