On Monday, the Supreme Court announced that it will review Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law — a version of so-called “heartbeat bills” that ban most abortions after 15 weeks. Anti-abortion advocates see the case as key to a serious diminishment of Roe v. Wade.
Mississippi is one of several states that passed a slew of abortion bills that severely narrowed the window for when a woman can legally terminate pregnancy. In many cases, banning abortion after 15 weeks can effectively amount to banning abortion outright, since most women don’t realize they’re pregnant till later. Pro-choice advocates were able to successfully argue that such bans don’t square with Roe v. Wade and none of those bills survived the lower courts.
But the Supreme Court will now take the case up to re-examine whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on abortion are unconstitutional.” If the Supreme Court finds that Mississippi is within its rights to place such limitations on the legal window for abortion, that would severely weaken Roe v. Wade even without overturning the decision completely.
Anti-abortion advocates have long known that heartbeat bills don’t survive legal challenges, but they continued to mount efforts to pass them in hopes that the Supreme Court would take up the case. Now, with the Supreme Court’s heavily conservative tilt following the introduction of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, activists are feeling optimistic about the decision going their way. Kavanaugh and Barrett replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy, whose rulings protected Roe v. Wade.
Public opinion on abortion remains mixed. According to Gallup’s most recent survey, only 28 percent of Americans — including 51 percent of Republicans and 13 percent of Democrats — want Roe v. Wade overturned. 64 percent of Americans think Roe should stand.
The Mississippi bill’s ban does not make exceptions for rape or incest.
The decision is expected to come in July of next year.