The Supreme Court will meet privately on Friday to consider if it should take up a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
As various states continue to adopt abortion prohibitions, many of the new laws are headed to the high court. As a result, the justices could opt to wait to take any action on abortion, CNN reported.
Mississippi officials had appealed a ruling by an appellate court that had invalidated the 15-week ban. The ruling found that the Supreme Court precedent prevents prohibitions when the fetus would be unable to live outside the womb.
The case stems from a Mississippi abortion clinic suing the state in 2018, shortly after then-Gov. Phil Bryant signed the 15-week ban. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled it was unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Reeves had ruled correctly.
But in late 2019, Mississippi asked the entire appeals court to reconsider the case, and the full panel later denied the request.
If the Supreme Court justices do agree to take up the 15-week abortion ban it, would likely spark intense national debate. And even if they deny the Mississippi petition, individual justices could issue statements regarding the denial and elaborate on their arguments for future rollbacks on abortions, CNN noted.
Mississippi’s Attorney General Lynn Fitch is urging justices to hear the case. Fitch has asked the court to clarify its standard and to disallow clinic lawsuits on behalf of women.
But the Jackson Women's Health Organization, represented by lawyers from the national Center for Reproductive Rights, is arguing that for almost 50 years the Supreme Court has maintained states may not prevent a woman from ending her pregnancy before the fetus would be able to survive outside her body.
Still, despite divergent views, the court is looking to coalesce around the issue.
"In the country, people have very strong feelings," liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said during oral arguments in a 2020 abortion case, "and a lot of people morally think it's wrong and a lot of people morally think the opposite is wrong."
Along with Breyer, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan have voted to reaffirm abortion rights and curtail the authority of states to restrict women's access to abortions, CNN said.
But Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch have staked out relatively firm ground on abortions. John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh have voted to relax the legal test covering state regulation of abortions. And Justice Amy Coney Barrett has not yet written on an abortion case.
But Barrett told her U.S. Senate confirmation hearing last year that her religious views would not affect her decisions on the bench and declined to say whether she believes the landmark 1973 ruling legalizing abortion nationwide was properly decided. Barrett pledged to follow the rules that bind justices when considering whether to overturn precedent.
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