Reproductive freedom is under direct threat after the Supreme Court said it will review a Mississippi law placing harsh restrictions on abortion rights. The law in question is one of many passed in states around the country by Republicans seeking to get a challenge to Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court, an effort bolstered by Donald Trump’s appointments moving the court sharply to the right.
The Mississippi law bans abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions only for “severe fetal abnormality” or medical emergency, and not for rape or incest. Roe v. Wade allows abortion until the point of fetal viability, which comes around 24 weeks. Even though the vast majority of abortions take place before 15 weeks of gestation, banning the procedure starting at 15 weeks would give the most vulnerable pregnant people less time to consider their choice, save money if needed, find a provider, and overcome the many barriers states like Mississippi put in their way. Yet, showing the degree to which the Mississippi law is a political move and not one responding to real conditions in the state, the only abortion clinic in the state only performs the procedure up to 16 weeks.
But the political move is a powerful one, reaching far beyond Mississippi: As part of this case, the court will consider whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on abortion are unconstitutional.” That raises the possibility of shattering decades of the court’s own precedent, and it does so for no medical reason.
“In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability,” Judge Patrick Higginbotham wrote for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. “States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right but they may not ban abortions.”
This is one of the key reasons then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held open one Supreme Court seat for the last 10 months of Barack Obama’s presidency, then filled another in an unprecedented rush in the final weeks before the 2020 election. Now, the Trump-McConnell six to three conservative court could fulfill years of efforts to effectively end women’s control over their own bodies and right to decide their futures.
But, uh …
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