During oral arguments regarding the Supreme Court’s case about a Mississippi abortion law that could challenge and possibly overthrow Roe V. Wade, Justice Clarence Thomas questioned the constitutionality of protecting abortion.
He asked what sort of “right” abortions fall under, questioning whether it fell under the auspices of “liberty… autonomy… privacy?”
One of the lawyers challenging Mississippi’s abortion ban said that the procedure is protected under the 14th Amendment with respect to liberty. The lawyer argued that pro-choice laws promote women’s “autonomy, bodily integrity, liberty… equality.” The lawyer added that the right to have an abortion without interference from the state is critical to women’s ability to have true liberty.
Thomas impatiently responded that he understand that the case is about abortion, but said that unlike the Second or Fourth Amendments where “I know exactly what we’re talking about”, it’s not clear based on the contents of the 14th Amendment that it specifically protects abortion.
The lawyer then said that all constitutional protections have required further explanation from courts to determine their bounds, and said that the case for abortion is no different. The lawyer attempted to argue that the state only has an interest in intervening in an abortion in a case where viability is of concern. They said that women have the right “prior to viability” to perform an abortion and control whether or not they continue forward with that pregnancy.
The current case is titled Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, that involves a Mississippi state ban on abortion procedures after 15 weeks. The case challenges the precedent that any right exists to abort a fetus before viability. The state is requesting that the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.
In May of this year, a federal court blocked the law.
In 1973, the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade outcome was that the Constitution protects the right of a woman to perform an abortion before the fetus is “viable.” This period was set between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation. The court left it to states to permit abortions on fetuses after such a period.
Republicans expect that this case will allow states the ability to enforce abortion legislation of their own.
Author: Michael Cooper