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Monday, August 2, 2021

Supreme Court to address Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider a major return of abortion rights, saying it will decide whether states can ban abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb.

The court’s order institutes a showdown over abortion, likely in the fall, with a more conservative court seemingly ready to dramatically change nearly 50 years of abortion rights rulings.

The court first announced a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion in the Roe v.Wade decision in 1973 and upheld it 19 years later.

The case involves a law in Mississippi that prohibits abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. The state’s ban has been blocked by lower courts because it violates the precedent of the Supreme Court, which protects a woman’s right to have an abortion before the fetus can survive outside her womb.

The judges have been postponing the case for several months. Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a proponent of abortion rights, died before the court’s new term began in October. Her replacement, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, is the most outspoken opponent of abortion rights who has joined the court in decades.

Barrett is one of three appointments of former President Donald Trump in the Supreme Court. The other two, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, voted in disagreement last year to allow Louisiana to impose restrictions on doctors who could close two of the state’s three abortion clinics.

Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Ginsburg and the other three Liberal judges, said the restrictions are virtually identical to a Texas law that the court rejected in 2016.

But the majority no longer exists, even though Roberts has hardly been a supporter of abortion rights in his more than 15 years in court, with the more liberal judges.

The Mississippi Act was enacted in 2018, but was blocked after a federal lawsuit. The state’s only abortion clinic remains open. The owner said the clinic performs abortions up to 16 weeks.

The case is separate from a fight over laws passed by Mississippi and other states that would have banned most abortions for six weeks – when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

A central question in the case is about viability – whether a fetus can survive outside the woman at 15 weeks. The clinic provided evidence that viability is impossible after 15 weeks, and the Fifth U.S. Court of Appeals said the state “conceded that it did not identify any medical evidence that a fetus would be viable at 15 weeks.”

The Mississippi Act will allow exceptions to the 15-week ban in cases of medical emergencies or severe fetal disorders. Doctors found to be in violation of the ban will face mandatory suspension or revocation of their medical license.


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