The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which challenges the constitutionality of the 2018 Mississippi law known as the “Gestational Age Act.” The legislation bans abortions after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy—five weeks earlier than the state’s typical abortion restriction—and directly challenges the ruling of Roe vs. Wade in which the Supreme Court ruled that abortion access should be available up until at least the 24-week point of viability, or longer if the pregnancy threatens a patient’s life or health.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a consistent supporter of reproductive rights, challenged Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart late Wednesday morning about even taking up and overturning precedents that have been set by both Roe and the 1992 landmark Supreme Court case Casey vs. Planned Parenthood in which the court reaffirmed the 1973 Roe ruling. She then set her sights on just how damaging the present case could be to not just the court itself, but to the constitution and the country, as well.
“What hasn’t been at issue in the last 30 years is the line that Casey drew of viability. There has been some difference of opinion with respect to undue burden, but the right of a woman to choose, the right to control her own body, has been clearly set since Casey and never challenged. You want us to reject that line of viability and adopt something different. Fifteen justices over 50 years have, or, I should say, 30 since Casey, have reaffirmed that basic viability line. Four had said no, two of them members of this court, but 15 justices have said yes, of varying political backgrounds. Now, the sponsors of this bill, the house bill in Mississippi, said we’re doing it because we have new justices,” Sotomayor said.
Listen to the audio of Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioning Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart below.
She called out the latest challenge to abortion rights in Mississippi, a 2020 law that has since been blocked that would ban abortions from being provided to a pregnant person after just six weeks. Once again, Sotomayor noted that the bill’s sponsor said they pushed the legislation through because “we have new justices on the Supreme Court.”
“Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don’t see how it is possible. It’s what Casey talked about when they talked about watershed decisions. Some of them, Brown vs. Board of Education it mentioned and this one, have such an entrenched set of expectations in our society: If this is what the court decided, this is what we will follow. That we won’t be able to survive if people believe that everything, including New York vs. Sullivan,” Sotomayor noted, referring to a 1964 First Amendment case that restricted defamation lawsuits from being filed by public officials. “I could name any other set of rights, including the Second Amendment by the way.”
“There are many political people that believe the court erred in seeing this as a personal right as opposed to a militia right,” Sotomayor added. “If people actually believe that this is all political, how will we survive? How will the court survive?”
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