Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan argued that abortion is “part of the fabric of women’s place in this country” to defend Roe v. Wade as SCOTUS is hearing the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Heath Organization case.
The case they are hearing centers on the 2018 Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The law does have exemptions carved out for cases of severe fetal anomalies or medical emergencies.
Mississippi’s law had been blocked by the lower courts.
On Wednesday, SCOTUS heard approximately 90 minutes of oral arguments for the case, which may be the most direct challenge to Roe v. Wade since it’s adoption.
The court is currently a 6-3 majority for conservatives, all of whom appeared to be open to changing the court’s previous determination that abortion is legal until a fetus becomes viable, according to a report from the Star Tribune.
The liberal judges argued that it is wrong to overturn a longstanding decision, but Justice Brett Kavanaugh countered that previous decisions were overruled to end segregation and allow gay marriage.
“Mississippi’s ban on abortion, two months before viability, is flatly unconstitutional under decades of precedent,” Center for Reproductive Rights Senior Director Julie Rikelman said during oral arguments. “Two generations have now relied on this right and 1 out of every 4 women makes a decision to end a pregnancy.”
Justice Amy Coney Barrett responded by asking Rikelman why women do not take advantage of safe haven laws, where they can drop off babies at locations such as fire departments, without facing any penalties.
“We don’t just focus on the burdens of parenting,” instead pregnancy is unique and “in fact has impact on all of their lives and their ability to care for other children, other family members, on their ability to work,” Rikelman replied.
Mississippi Solicitor General Scott G. Stewart, who provided oral arguments in favor of the state’s law, pointed to Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson — when the Court ruled in favor of racial segregation.
“In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law,” Harlan had said. Stewart argued that these rights must extend to the unborn.
The state argued, “the conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition.”
Demonstrators from both sides of the debate gathered outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday — with women from the activist group Shout Your Abortion consuming what they claimed were abortion pills in the middle of a cheering crowd.