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Reviewing Abortion Limits

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The US Supreme Court has agreed to review a Mississippi law that would ban nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.  Legal experts on both sides of the abortion issue have indicated that the case presents an opportunity for the court to modify — perhaps even to overturn — Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, challenged the 2018 law as unconstitutional. Both a district judge and a three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said the law could not be squared with decades of Supreme Court precedent.

On hearing that the Supreme Court agreed to review the 5th Circuit’s decision, Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Alexis McGill said, “By taking this case, the court will be reviewing nearly 50 years of precedent guaranteeing our right to abortion.”

Pro-lifers hope that the court, with three new Trump-appointed justices, will alter that jurisprudence.  That the justices agreed to take the case means that at least four of them are willing to revisit the viability rule reaffirmed in Casey.

The court will examine “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” In 1992, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court approved a 24-week limit.

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life points out “how arbitrary it was that viability as a boundary line for when the state can start protecting unborn babies, was introduced into Roe v. Wade.”  He says it wasn’t in any of the lower court cases or the briefs and was inserted right before the decision. “In doing so,” he says “the Supreme Court ignored the science involved and most certainly the morality.”

By upholding Mississippi’s law, the court would not have to explicitly overturn Roe but it would allow states more leeway to place limits on abortion. This challenge to Roe and Casey offers the court the opportunity to narrow or abandon its precedents and loosen its grip on abortion politics.penna's vp small

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