Supreme Court to officially hear challenge to Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court began on Wednesday to hear a case that is a direct challenge to the Roe v. Wade 1973 landmark ruling that said abortion access was guaranteed under the Constitution. The case deals with a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Opponents of abortion have long waited for the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to Roe v. Wade and are hopeful the conservative-leaning court will overturn the 1973 ruling. Three of the justices were appointed by former President Donald Trump, as he said he would choose nominees willing to overturn Roe. Abortion advocates fear the reversal of the ruling would severely hinder abortion access across the nation.

At the heart of the case being brought before the Supreme Court is a Mississippi law that was passed in 2018. The law would ban most abortions after 15 weeks’ gestation, only allowing them in medical emergencies or cases of severe fetal abnormality. While it was blocked by lower courts, supporters of the law say it is intended to regulate “inhumane procedures,” as they cited fetal capability to feel pain by that point.

The decision under Roe allows states to make some restrictions on abortion as long as those restrictions do not present an “undue burden,” but no state can ban the procedure before fetal viability. Viability has generally been considered 23 to 24 weeks into pregnancy, although some babies have been known to survive after earlier births as neonatal technology has increased.

“If Roe is reversed, almost half the states in America would strictly limit abortion and perhaps ban it altogether,” said the president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Nancy Northrup. The group supports abortion rights.

The state of Mississippi said it must be allowed to take into account advancements in the medical field that shift the point of viability to an earlier point in the pregnancy. Mississippi argued in its submissions that the Supreme Court was fundamentally errant in its Roe decision: “Nothing in constitutional text, structure, history, or tradition supports a right to abortion.”

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