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- Plaintiff in Roe v. Wade
On Wednesday, Dec. 1, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a lawsuit challenging Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Here's what we know.
Why does this Supreme Court decision matter?
The high-profile case, arguably the most contentious issue before the court in years, has the potential to upend the battle over reproductive rights well beyond the Magnolia State.
The decision could significantly weaken abortion protections in the state, which have been historically under fire.
Conservatives enjoy a 6-3 majority on the high court for the first time since the Roosevelt administration.
What is the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case about?
The court is evaluating a Mississippi law that forbids abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This ban was voted into law in 2018 by a Republican-majority legislature.
The only exceptions provided by this law are cases of fetuses with extreme abnormalities that are “incompatible with life” or when the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life or a “major bodily function.”
The law also punishes doctors who administer abortions. Doctors who violate the ban would have their medical licenses suspended or revoked.
In response to this legislation, the state’s only abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, filed suit to block the law. It argued the law was unconstitutional, and that is the main question set before the Supreme Court this week.
After the organization sued, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals both struck the law down as unconstitutional. The state then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which accepted the case for review.
What is Roe v. Wade?
The 1970 case out of Texas is widely regarded as the main abortion rights case in the United States. The ruling was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court 1973.
Jane Roe (a false name to protect identity) sued Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County. Her suit questioned the constitutionality of making abortion illegal except by a doctor’s orders to save a woman’s life.
By way of the Fourteenth Amendment and its due process clause, the court found it is a fundamental “right to privacy” that protects a pregnant woman’s choice to have an abortion. However, this right is balanced against the government’s interests in protecting women's health and protecting “the potentiality of human life.”
What if the Supreme Court upholds Mississippi's law?
Staying the ban on abortion as written in the Mississippi legislature would be a step toward overturning or weakening Roe v. Wade.
State officials argue the justices could significantly weaken Roe's protection by either allowing bans before fetal viability or by ruling that the 15-week law does not put a significant burden on people in Mississippi.
Experts predict that would prompt nearly two dozen states to embrace similar bans, creating a patchwork of abortion laws that would resemble the red-state, blue-state maps of presidential elections, according to Time.
How Mississippi's numbers compare
About 29 in 1,000 Mississippi teens ages 15 to 19 will give birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the second-highest rate in the nation behind Arkansas. The national average is about 17.4 in 1,000, CDC data shows.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Supreme Court to hear Mississippi lawsuit on abortion: What we know