Abortion debate begins Dec. 1 at US Supreme Court, as many voices join in

The Supreme Court announced that on Dec. 1 it will hear arguments in a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans almost all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, was already positioned to be one of the highest-profile arguments of the 2021-22 term, because the state had specifically asked the court to overrule its landmark decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, holding that the Constitution protects the right to have an abortion before the fetus can survive outside the womb.

More than 50 “friend-of-the-court” briefs were submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court to support the challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.

Briefs have been filed by leaders in constitutional law, health care, international human rights, reproductive justice, civil rights, sports and other areas; organizations representing communities most impacted by abortion restrictions; people who have had abortions; and those who have relied for decades on having the right to abortion.

The spotlight on the case became even more intense earlier this month, when the Supreme Court turned down a request to block the enforcement of a Texas law that defies the Roe standards by prohibiting abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy.

The court was deeply divided in the Texas case, with the conservative majority acknowledging that the challengers had “raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law.”

The majority, over dissents by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s three liberal justices, nonetheless allowed the Texas law to go into effect while litigation challenging its constitutionality continues in the lower courts.

The announcement of the Dec. 1 argument date in the Mississippi case was part of the Supreme Court’s release of its December argument calendar.

A week after the Mississippi case, on Dec. 8, the justices will hear argument in one of the other major cases of the term, involving public funding for private schools that provide religious instruction. Carson v. Makin involves a Maine tuition-assistance program that provides money for students to attend private schools.

Two sets of parents were excluded from the program because the families wanted to use the money at Christian schools that would use the funds for religious instruction.

In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that states that choose to subsidize private education cannot exclude religious schools from receiving money simply because they are religious.

The Maine parents want the justices to rule that there is no reason to distinguish between whether a school uses funds for religious purposes, despite clear constitutional prohibitions on spending to support any ministry.

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