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The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a potential landmark abortion rights case Wednesday, as the state of Mississippi defended an abortion restriction law that directly challenges Roe v. Wade.

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, centers on the law, which bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, much sooner than the current legal standard, which prohibits abortion bans prior to fetal viability — roughly 23 to 24 weeks into pregnancy.

Throughout the arguments, the justices alternated between examining not just the legal standards for abortion laws based on interests of women and protecting potential life, but also the court’s own interest in protecting itself from losing the faith of the public.
Pro and anti-abortion activists gather outside the Supreme Court.

Pro and anti-abortion activists gather outside the Supreme Court. (Fox News Digital)

“[T]o overrule under fire in the absence of the most compelling reason to reexamine a watershed decision would subvert the Court’s legitimacy beyond any serious question,” Justice Stephen Breyer said, quoting the opinion in 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett also pointed to how Casey “very explicitly took into account” public reaction. She asked if there should be a special standard for overturning cases of particular importance.

Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart said there should not. He argued that while Casey was “unusual” and “a mistake,” the court could say now that their legitimacy comes from standing for constitutional principles and overruling when appropriate.

Breyer later pointed to Barrett’s discussion of public reaction, and warned that in watershed cases where people are “really opposed on both sides,” no matter how the court rules there will be accusations of politicization.,51376237.html,51376237.html

Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that a woman’s right to get an abortion has been “clearly set” and never challenged since Casey, and how over 50 years there have been 15 justices who ruled in favor of a right to abortion compared to four against, and that the sponsors of the Mississippi law came right out and said they were introducing the bill because there are new justices on the high court.

“Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception … that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” she asked.

Stewart said that the court’s concern about appearing political means that they should base their decision on the Constitution. Sotomayor said that Casey did this, even if Stewart does not think so.

“Casey gave one paragraph to the workability of Roe,” Stewart responded, adding that the decision then went into the undue burden standard, which Stewart called “the most unworkable” legal standard in history.

Stewart then added that Casey did not take into account advancement in medical knowledge. When asked what advancements have taken place since Casey, he pointed to studies on fetal pain, which Sotomayor dismissed as being from “a small fringe of doctors” and not a signal of an actual advancement of knowledge. She noted that brain dead people have responded to stimuli, so a fetal response does not necessarily mean anything.

Returning to the viability line, Stewart said it was “quintessentially legislative.” He later argued that this line discounts the state interest in protecting human life.

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