Supreme Court looks set to gut abortion rights
Lawyer argues ‘court not neutral’
Published: Dec 02, 2021 05:58 PM
A group of people assemble at the Times Square in New York City, the US on Saturday to protest the new Texas ban on abortion. Photo: AFP

A group of people assemble at the Times Square in New York City, the US to protest the new Texas ban on abortion. Photo: AFP

Conservative US Supreme Court justices on Wednesday signaled a willingness to dramatically curtail abortion rights in America and perhaps overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v.

Wade ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide as they indicated they would uphold a restrictive Republican-backed Mississippi law.

The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, heard about two hours of oral arguments in the southern state's bid to revive its ban on abortion starting at 15 weeks of pregnancy, a law blocked by lower courts. The liberal justices warned against ditching important and longstanding legal precedents like Roe and abandoning a right American women have come to rely upon.

Jackson Women's Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, challenged the law and has the support of Democratic President Joe Biden's administration. A ruling is expected by the end of June 2022.

Roe v. Wade recognized that the right to personal privacy under the US Constitution protects a woman's ability to terminate her pregnancy. The Supreme Court in a 1992 ruling called Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey reaffirmed abortion rights and prohibited laws imposing an "undue burden" on abortion access. Mississippi asked the justices to overturn the Roe and Casey rulings.

Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh voiced a view often expressed by abortion opponents that nothing in the Constitution protects abortion rights.

"The Constitution is neither pro-life nor pro-choice on the question of abortion but leaves the issue to the people of the states or perhaps Congress to resolve in the democratic process," Kavanaugh said.

If Roe were overturned, many states "would continue to freely allow abortion," Kavanaugh added. Before the Roe ruling, many states banned abortion.

Julie Rikelman, arguing for the abortion clinic, said overturning Roe would not mean the court is neutral on abortion as Kavanaugh suggested.

"Women have an equal right to liberty under the Constitution, Your Honor, and if they're not able to make this decision, if states can take control of women's bodies and force them to endure months of pregnancy and childbirth, then they will never have equal status under the Constitution," Rikelman told Kavanaugh.