The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider a major overhaul of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide by taking up a case involving a Mississippi law seeking to ban abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.
The court’s next term begins in October and ends in June 2022, which means that the 6-3 conservative majority court could by next year overturn the past 50 years of rulings on abortion rights.
The Mississippi ban involved in the case had been blocked in the lower courts as inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s precedent that a woman has the right to obtain an abortion before the fetus is developed enough to survive outside the womb.
“Alarm bells are ringing loudly about the threat to reproductive rights. The Supreme Court just agreed to review an abortion ban that unquestionably violates nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent and is a test case to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told Reuters.
The showdown on abortion will occur after the passing of abortion-rights proponent Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last September. Her replacement, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, is one of the most anti-abortion rights justices to join the court in decades.
Barrett is among three Supreme Court justices appointed by former President Donald Trump, including Justices Neil Horsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both of whom voted in favor of Louisiana abortion restrictions that reached the court last year.
The three remaining liberals on the court are Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer. With the loss of their majority, it will be increasingly difficult to block the law.
Under the Mississippi law, exceptions to the ban would be made in cases of medical emergencies of severe fetal abnormalities. Doctors who violate the ban would face mandatory suspension or have their medical license revoked.