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US top court mulls future of abortion rights

Hundreds of protesters from both sides of the abortion debate rally outside the white marble neo-classical courthouse
The US Supreme Court
The US Supreme Court
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Reuters   |   Washington   |   Published 02.12.21, 01:36 AM

Conservative US Supreme Court justices on Wednesday signalled support for curbing abortion rights in America by upholding a restrictive Mississippi law while liberal justices warned against ditching important legal precedents like the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalising the procedure nationwide.

The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, is hearing at least 70 minutes of oral arguments in the southern state’s appeal to revive its ban on abortion starting at 15 weeks of pregnancy. Lower courts blocked the Republican-backed law.

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Jackson Women’s Health Organisation, 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 next June. 

Roe v. Wade recognised 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 has asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Roe and Casey rulings.

“Why is 15 weeks not enough time” for a woman to decide to have an abortion, Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts asked during the argument.

While Roberts seemed to indicate that the court could uphold the Mississippi law without overturning Roe v. Wade, some of his fellow conservative justices including Justice Neil Gorsuch appeared to be interested in going further. “The Constitution is neither pro-life nor pro-choice ... and leaves the issue to the people to resolve.” 



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