The U.S. Supreme Court is once again at the center of an ongoing public debate over abortion rights.
On Wednesday, justices heard oral arguments in a case challenging the Mississippi law restricting abortions after 15 weeks into a pregnancy — and the conservative majority seemed to indicate a willingness to uphold that statewide ban.
Of course, any such ruling would outrage many on the left — including the court’s liberal minority.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, for example, asked at one point during the proceeding: “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?”
For his part, conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh expressed a belief that the Supreme Court is not the forum from which to set precedent on this issue in the first place.
“Why should this court be the arbiter rather than Congress, the state legislatures, state supreme courts, the people being able to resolve this?” he asked, according to the Associated Press.
In such a scenario, Kavanaugh noted, public policy would be dictated on a more local level, leading to “different answers in Mississippi and New York, different answers in Alabama than California.”
“The burden of parenting”
An attorney for the Jackson Women’s Health Organization attempted to sway the justices with her reference to the burden that an unplanned pregnancy can become.
“I have a question about safe haven laws,” she said. “You can terminate parental rights by relinquishing a child after giving birth. The cases emphasized the burden of parenting. But women don’t have to parent if they don’t want to! Why don’t safe haven laws take care of that?”
Barrett, another member of the court’s conservative wing, has two adopted children of her own.
Chief Justice John Roberts seemed more concerned with focusing specifically on the Mississippi law without disrupting the longstanding precedent allowing for abortion during the first two trimesters. Regardless of how the court rules in this case, however, it is clear that the hot-button issue of abortion will remain the subject of impassioned disputes for years to come.