WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court heard arguments in which it was asked to overturn a nationwide abortion right that has existed for nearly 50 years.
The fate of the 1973 Roe v. Wade court decision to legalize abortion throughout the United States and its 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey judgment, which Roe confirmed, will probably not be known until the end of June.
WATCH: Why Supreme Court May Override Roe’s Mississippi Abortion Ban case
But during Wednesday’s nearly two-hour controversy, conservative judges indicated they have questions about the current abortion system. The judge was asked to overturn two fundamental decisions in the context of the Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks. Rowe and Casey’s legal precedents say the state may regulate but not ban abortion until viability is reached in about 24 weeks. All six conservative judges, including three appointed by former President Donald Trump, have said they will abide by Mississippi law.
In his letters and statements before Wednesday, Judge Clarence Thomas was the only judge to openly call for the cancellation of Rowe and Casey.
Here’s what the judges said during the controversy:
Chief Justice John Roberts called the 15-week ban “not a dramatic departure from vitality.” He said: “If you think … that women should have a choice to terminate their pregnancy, this suggests that there is a moment when they had a fair choice, a choice, and why 15 weeks might not be the right line? Because vitality, it seems to me, has nothing to do with choice. But if this is really a choice problem, why is 15 weeks not enough? “
Judge Clarence Thomas suggested that the right to abortion does not appear anywhere in the Constitution: “If we were talking about the Second Amendment, I know exactly what we are talking about. If we are talking about the Fourth Amendment, I know what we are talking about because it was written. It’s here. What exactly are we talking about here? “
Judge Samuel Alito said people on both sides of the abortion issue said the court’s vitality line “really doesn’t make a lot of sense.” He suggested that the woman still “has the same interest in terminating the pregnancy after the vitality line has been crossed.” He added: “The fetus is interested in life, and that doesn’t change, does it, from a point before vitality to a point after vitality?”
Judge Neil Gorsuch asked what the court should do if it “rejects the viability line.” “Do you see any other clear principle that the court might have chosen?” he asked the Biden administration’s chief lawyer in the Supreme Court, who argued the Mississippi ban should be overturned.
Judge Brett Cavanaugh suggested that the overturning precedent was an important part of the court’s history: “If you think about some of the most important cases, the most significant cases in the history of this court, there are a number of cases in which cases overturned the precedent.” Cavanaugh cited cases that expanded rights beyond what they used to be, including those that outlawed segregation and argued that same-sex couples had the right to marry. “If we think that the previous precedents are seriously flawed, if so, then why does the history of this court’s practice in relation to these cases not tell us that the correct answer is in fact a return to a position of neutrality and – and not adhere to these precedents like this? the same as all other cases? “
Judge Amy Coney Barrett suggested that so-called safe haven laws in all 50 states that allow mothers to surrender parental rights mean that women cannot be forced into motherhood. She asked about what “requires a woman to go another 15, 16 weeks” after achieving viability, “and then deprived of parental rights at the end.” “Why didn’t you turn to safe haven laws and why don’t they matter?” she asked the lawyer opposing the Mississippi ban.
Judge Stephen Breuer said if a court overturns a landmark case like Rowe, “it’s best to be damn sure” before doing so. He cited the Casey case on the dangers of reversing the precedent, stating: “Reversing a decision under fire in the absence of the most compelling reasons, a renegotiation of a watershed decision will, without any serious doubt, undermine the legitimacy of the court.”
Judge Sonia Sotomayor said the reshuffling of Rowe and Casey would hurt the court. She asked, “Will this institution survive the stench it creates in public opinion that the Constitution and its reading are merely political acts?”
Judge Elena Kagan said of the current case: “I think what amazes me when I look at this case is that, you know, little has changed since Rowe and Casey, people think it’s right or wrong. depending on what they have. always thought it was right and wrong. ” However, since Rowe’s “50 years of water under the bridge, 50 years of decisions that say this is part of our law, that this is part of the fabric of women in this country.”