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Why the Supreme Court may reverse Roe v. Wade in Mississippi abortion ban case

December 1, 2021


The future of abortion rights took center stage at the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday, December 1, as justices heard arguments over a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Recognizing one of the most consequential cases about the issue in decades, dozens of protesters on both sides gathered en masse outside the court building. Judy Woodruff reports.


Precedent: The principle that judges and justices follow past judicial decisions for guidance when possible. Courts adhere to precedent so that decisions don’t appear based on the whims or biases of a single court.

Stare decisis: Latin for “to stand by the thing” —  the practice of honoring or following past reasoning of Supreme Court decisions. Justices applying stare decisis may rule in line with past court decisions even if they don’t fully agree with those decisions to help maintain consistency and impartiality in the court.

Five Facts

  • Who is interviewed in this segment, and what are their backgrounds?
  • What is the Supreme Court deciding in this case, according to the guests?
  • Why does Mary Ziegler think that this case might lead to overturning Roe v. Wade?
  • What comments did justices make about honoring or overturning precedent, according to this piece?
  • How do concerns about “politicizing” the Supreme Court weigh on its decision in this case?

Focus Questions

Much of the questioning by justices was about precedent and the consequences of overturning a previous judgment of the court. Why do you think precedent is important in the legal system, and what principles should guide the overruling of precedent?

Media literacy: Why do you think the producers invited two separate guests onto the show to discuss the case for this piece?

For More

  • To better understand the precedent in this case, see this history of Roe v. Wade. The court upheld but modified the Roe decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.
  • For more on the Mississippi clinic at the center of the Supreme Court case, see this story.
  • Earlier this fall, the Supreme Court let stand a Texas law that allows anyone to sue other private citizens who they suspect may have helped someone receive an abortion after six weeks into a pregnancy. More on that story in a Daily News Lesson here.

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Media literacy education

What is media literacy?

Media literacy is the ability to access, evaluate and create all types of media, including news media.

All of NewsHour Classroom's resources contain lessons in media literacy, including questions like who produced the piece and what do you know about them?

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