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Abortion rights activists are marching today, voicing opposition to a Texas law that heavily restricts abortion access. The Supreme Court's new term begins Monday, in which it is scheduled to hear a case stemming from a Mississippi law that banned most abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy. Mary Ziegler, a professor at Florida State University College of Law and author of the book, “Abortion and the Law in America: Roe v. Wade to the Present,” joins to discuss.
Abortion rights marches today focused on a texas law making its way through the lower courts which restricts access to abortions. The Supreme Court begins its new term Monday with a case on the docket stemming from a Mississippi law that banned most abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy. For more on the legal cases, I spoke with Mary Ziegler, a professor at Florida State University College of Law and author of the book "Abortion and the Law in America – Roe v. Wade to the present."
So, Professor Ziegler, one of the things that people have been concerned about since the passage of the Texas law is how it would impact other parts of the country. Are there lots of other states that are trying their own versions of this law? Are they concerned now that there are kind of challenges and there might be roadblocks ahead?
There are several governors of conservative states who've said they're going to look into passing, or pledge to pass the law. The momentum has slowed down a little bit in the weeks since. I think, in part because these challenges have arisen and made it seem as if maybe this law will not be able to prevent abortion from happening in the state of Texas. The other thing that's happened, of course, is that the plaintiffs who have come forward have not been people that the right-to-life movement might have chosen. So there's also a threat that if you pass this law, you lose control of the message. So I think there's been more of a sense among red-state governors that maybe the best solution is to wait for the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade in 2021-2022 rather than passing this law in the short term.
Let's talk a little bit about what is coming down the road to the Supreme Court. And why is that case for Mississippi so important?
So the Supreme Court is hearing a case Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which addresses a Mississippi law that bans abortions at 15 weeks, which is the point at which the state says fetal pain is possible. Most scientific research doesn't support that and suggests that pain takes place much later in pregnancy. But what's significant is that 15 weeks is well before fetal viability, which is the point at which survival outside of the womb is possible, and that usually takes place around 24 weeks, so well after the 15-week mark. The Supreme Court since Roe v. Wade has said that there's a right to choose abortion before viability. So if the court is going to uphold this law as we expect it to, the court will either have to overrule Roe entirely or we'll have to see that pre-viability bans are OK and potentially open the door to all kinds of legislation and to a decision overruling Roe down the road.
So if, it seems like either, in a way, Texas sets its precedent and is upheld, but inevitably you will have other states possibly creating their own rules in response, and then you've got challenges that will bubble up to the Supreme Court. If it's not this case from Mississippi, the court is likely to hear about abortion again.
Absolutely. There are two cases that the court is debating taking at the moment. Both involve what's often referred to as "reasons bans." So laws that say you can't have an abortion in cases, for example, of a diagnosis of Down syndrome or for purposes of sex selection. The court could decide to take those cases any time. Right. And that's to say nothing of the dozens of cases that are further in the pipeline, including heartbeat bills. So regardless of what the court does this summer, we should expect to see the court roll back abortion rights significantly or reverse Roe entirely in the next couple of years.
Professor Mary Ziegler from Florida State University College of Law. Thanks so much for joining us.
My pleasure. Thanks.
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