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Supreme Court to take up Mississippi abortion case in December

September 20, 2021, 5:40 PM UTC

The U.S. Supreme Court scheduled arguments for Dec. 1 on its biggest abortion case in a generation, a Mississippi appeal that seeks to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

The case, which the court will resolve by late June, centers on a law that would ban abortion in almost all circumstances after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The court will consider it amid a push by Republican-controlled states for even tighter restrictions, including Texas’s new ban on abortion at about the six-week mark.

The Mississippi clash will be the only case argued on Dec. 1, giving the justices flexibility to go beyond the 60 minutes typically allotted for each case. The court said recently that its arguments for the rest of the year will take place in person, with limited attendance and a live audio feed for the public. 

In a court filing last week, abortion providers told the justices they would create “chaos” by overturning Roe, the 1973 decision that legalized the procedure nationwide. The providers argued that women will be left without a way to legally end pregnancies in “large swaths of the South and Midwest.”

In response, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch called Roe a “flawed and hopelessly unworkable precedent” and said the court should “return policy making to the people.”

Mississippi, backed by hundreds of Republican officials, is also asking the court to overrule the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling. That decision established fetal viability, a point somewhere after the 20th week of pregnancy, as the key line and barred states from imposing an “undue burden” on abortion before that point. 

When it sought Supreme Court intervention last year, Mississippi asked the court to throw out the viability standard without necessarily overturning Roe. After Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—giving the court a 6-3 conservative majority—the state took a harder line and called for Roe to be overturned.

The case is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 19-1392.

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