The Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Wednesday signaled it would uphold Mississippi's 15-week ban on abortion and may go much further to overturn the nationwide right to abortion that has existed for nearly 50 years.
The fate of the court’s historic 1973 Roe versus Wade decision legalising abortion throughout the United States and its 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood versus Casey, which reaffirmed Roe, probably won't be known until next June.
But after nearly two hours of arguments, all six conservative justices, including three appointed by former President Donald Trump, indicated they would uphold the Mississippi law.
At the very least, such a decision would undermine Roe and Casey, which allow states to regulate but not ban abortion up until the point of viability, at roughly 24 weeks.
And there was also substantial support among the conservative justices for getting rid of Roe and Casey altogether.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a Trump appointee, asked a series of questions about whether the court would be better off withdrawing from the abortion debate and letting states decide.
“Why should the court be the arbiter?" Kavanaugh asked. “There'll be different access in Mississippi and New York, Alabama and California.”
The court’s three liberal justices said that reversing Roe and Casey would significantly damage the court’s legitimacy.
"Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked.
Justice Elena Kagan said the abortion decisions are “part of the fabric of women's place in this country”.
The case came to a court with a 6-3 conservative majority that has been transformed by the justices named by Trump, who had pledged to appoint justices who oppose abortion rights.
The court had never agreed to hear a case over an abortion ban so early in pregnancy until all three Trump appointees – Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh – were on board. (AP)
Last updated: 2021-12-2 HKT 04:35