By Andrea Germanos / Common Dreams
Reproductive rights advocates rallied Wednesday outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices heard oral arguments in a case directly challenging the constitutional right to abortion affirmed in Roe v. Wade.
At issue before the conservative-leaning court is a challenge to Mississippi’s ban on nearly all abortions after 15 weeks. Thus far blocked by lower courts, the law, according to Dr. Martin Tucker, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is “an example of harmful legislative interference into the practice of medicine.”
The stakes of the ruling, say abortion care defenders, couldn’t be higher.
“There’s no middle ground,” the Center for Reproductive Rights said in an event description for the Abortion Is Essential: Rally for Our Rights event it’s hosting in collaboration with the National Abortion Access Coalition.
“Any ruling upholding Mississippi’s ban guts the central holding of Roe and our right to make fundamental decisions about our lives, our futures, and our families,” the group added.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, “26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion,” should Roe fall, with a dozen of those states having so-called “trigger bans” on the books that would immediately curtail abortion rights.
The case before the court Wednesday is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the latter referring to Mississippi’s sole remaining abortion clinic, which is being represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights. Dobbs refers to Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s top health officer.
Mississippi is asking the court to overturn the landmark 1973 ruling in Roe affirming the constitutional right to abortion prior to viability, which was upheld in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
The challenge to that right comes amid a wave of anti-choice measures put forth by state officials and as the top court now has a 6-3 conservative majority, with three of the right-wing justices—Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh—having been appointed by former President Donald Trump.
The potential gutting of abortion rights is being relished by anti-choice groups and figures like Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence, who said Tuesday that he hoped Roe was headed “to the ash heap of history where it belongs”—a remark that flies in the face of strong public support for upholding the ruling.
In a statement Tuesday, NARAL Pro-Choice America president Mini Timmaraju said that “the constitutional right to abortion faces a terrifying and unprecedented threat” and called “this moment of crisis … the culmination of the anti-choice movement’s decadeslong efforts to undermine the will of the overwhelming majority of people in this country who support the legal right to abortion.”
“Make no mistake,” she said. “The future of reproductive freedom is in grave danger, and the time to take bold action to protect it is now. It is absolutely critical that our leaders in the Senate pass the Women’s Health Protection Act immediately to safeguard the right to abortion throughout our country.”