US Supreme Court: Liberal Abortion Law About to End?

Status: 01.12.2021 8:57 a.m.

Mississippi has banned abortions after week 15, challenging an important US landmark judgment. Now the Supreme Court is dealing with the law. Can the historical judgment change?

By Franziska Hoppen, ARD-Studio Washington

There is still exactly one abortion clinic in the entire US state of Mississippi – in the capital Jackson. The daily work of the Women’s Health Organization also includes anti-abortion opponents outside. TV pictures show how they try to get women to change their minds while holding up signs: “Believe in Jesus” or “Pray that there will be no more abortions”. Volunteers help bring the women past the protesters to the clinic.

Franziska Hoppen
ARD-Studio Washington

Now the future of the clinic is at stake – and with it the abortion law of the entire United States. Mississippi doesn’t just want to tighten the law in its own state. Before the Supreme Court, the case now also calls into question the rule of law of the entire previous regulation.

For the good of the woman?

A landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court has been in effect nationwide since 1973: Roe versus Wade. It says that abortions are allowed until the fetus is viable, from a medical point of view between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. Mississippi wants to ban pregnancies as early as the 15th week.

And the reason Mississippi’s Attorney General Lynn Fitch cites is not a moral one: Washington must not interfere. The decision-making authority should be brought back from the capital to the states. In other words, if the people of Mississippi want to restrict abortion rights, then they should be allowed to. Fitch is critical of abortions and believes that women are only really emancipated when they no longer have to choose between either / or, but can say yes to both pregnancy and their own needs. “We want to talk about the self-determination of women,” says Fitch.

Shannon Brewer, the head of the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, infuriates this argument. She relies on statistics that show that banning abortions simply means that women are looking for other avenues. She told a television station: “Now we have safe, legal abortions. Are we throwing all this away to have unsafe, illegal abortions? Women will die, they will bleed to death, or they will get infections. That is exactly what will happen.”

Most dangerous challenge in a long time

Several appeals by Roe against Wade have already preceded this case. Anti-abortionists, especially Christian groups, are persistent. And the formulation of the Supreme Court is weak. Back in 1973, the logic of the judges was that first trimester abortion was less dangerous than pregnancy and childbirth. It looks different in the second trimester. So states are allowed to regulate abortions, but only for the benefit of the mother’s health.

Abortion opponents have used this gray area and repeatedly provoked against the fundamental judgment. In 1992 another case landed before the Supreme Court: Planned Parenthood against Casey. This time the court ruled: women who want an abortion should not be put in any major obstacle.

Another gray area. Abortion opponents have repeatedly tested what exactly makes up this hurdle. Conservative states have passed hundreds of laws that make access to abortion difficult: they require waiting times, demanding ultrasound appointments or notifying relatives. This year alone, more than 100 new such laws came into effect in the United States. The goal of the opponents: to pass laws until they land on appeal at the Supreme Court and Roe against Wade tips.

Judgment expected in June

In the meantime, US presidents have ensured that the nine associate judges move further and further to the right. Donald Trump appointed three of them. The conservative camp now has a majority of six to three.

If Roe is actually turned against Wade, then a dozen states are in the starting blocks to directly ban abortions. They are located as a cluster in the south and northwest of the United States. Abortion would remain legal in at least 15 states, particularly along the east and west coasts.

How far the judges will actually go in their judgment remains open. It is quite possible that they only restrict certain aspects of Roe versus Wade – or perhaps leave it completely untouched. A verdict is expected to fall next June.

Supreme Court: Does the Right to Abortion Topple?

Franziska Hoppen, ARD Washington, December 1st, 2021 7:51 am

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