Yesterday, the Supreme Court listened to oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, one of the most important abortion cases to bubble up in decades. The case involves a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. You can listen to the arguments here and read the transcript here). (You can also read summations of the case’s 140 amicus briefs here.)
The case, said the New York Times:
concerns a law enacted in 2018 by the Republican-dominated Mississippi Legislature that banned abortions if “the probable gestational age of the unborn human” was determined to be more than 15 weeks. The statute, a calculated challenge to Roe, included narrow exceptions for medical emergencies or “a severe fetal abnormality.”
Most press coverage leaned toward the Court letting the law stand, but let’s all remember that second-guessing SCOTUS decisions based on the questions at the arguments is a fool’s errand. The six conservatives on the court appeared to be batting back and forth whether to go full-on Gilead and overturn Roe or whether to focus specifically on the 15-week question (which appeared to be Chief Justice John Roberts’ wish), rather than viability and other arguments that come up when abortion is being discussed).
My completely biased takeaway?
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor asks very good questions. “How Is your interest anything but a religious view” was absolutely my favorite. My second? “When does the life of a woman — and putting her at risk — enter the calculus?”
…in Mississippi, those risks are alarmingly high. It's 75 times more dangerous to give birth in Mississippi than it -- than it is to have a pre-viability abortion, and those risks are disproportionately threatening the lives of women of color.
What happens next? Again, according to the Times:
The justices will cast tentative votes at a private conference in the coming days. The senior justice in the majority will then assign the majority opinion to a colleague or, just as likely, keep it. Draft opinions, almost certainly including concurrences and dissents, will be prepared and exchanged.
On average, it takes the court about three months after an argument to issue a decision. But the decision in the abortion case is not expected until late June or early July, when major rulings tend to arrive whether they were argued relatively early in the court’s term, as this one was, or in the court’s final argument session, in April.
As I listened, I just kept coming back to this: The moment we start thinking any laws are settled when those laws have to do with women’s autonomy over their own bodies, we are setting ourselves up for a sad kind of disappointment. Keep your powder dry and your sword within reach.