United States: Supreme Court appears to be party to restrict abortion rights

Will access to abortion remain a federal right, or will each state be free to set its criteria? The Supreme Court of the United States appeared on Wednesday prepared to modify the legal framework which, for nearly 50 years, has guaranteed the right of American women to have an abortion, either by restricting it or by nullifying it altogether.

Its nine judges, including six Conservatives, spent two hours reviewing a Mississippi law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. They will have to make their decision by the end of June.

Although measured, this law violates the framework set by the Supreme Court for lack of federal law. In its landmark judgment “Roe v. Wade ”of 1973, she held that the American Constitution guaranteed the right of women to have an abortion. It exists as long as the fetus is not “viable”, or around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy, she said in 1992.

Limit to 15 weeks

Federal courts therefore blocked Mississippi law before it came into effect in this rural and religious state in the American South. His authorities then appealed to the Supreme Court which, by accepting it, indicated that it was ready to review its copy.

During the hearing, some conservative magistrates seemed to want to correct only the threshold set for abortion. “A ban after 15 weeks does not seem to me to be a huge change from viability, it is the rule adopted by a majority of countries,” noted the Chief of the Court, John Roberts, who is the most moderate of the Tories. . But Mississippi asked them to go further and take advantage of this case to completely reverse its previous decisions.

Judges do not rule out going further

“They have no basis in the Constitution”, and “have kept the Court for 50 years in the heart of a political battle”, pleaded its representative, Scott Stewart. End “Roe v. Wade ”will allow, as before 1973, each state to decide whether or not to authorize abortions and to render“ the decision to the people ”, he added.

Several conservative magistrates were sensitive to his arguments. “The Court was forced to choose a side in one of the most divisive social debates in America,” said Judge Brett Kavanaugh. But shouldn’t it “be scrupulously neutral” and leave this decision to elected officials? His colleague Amy Coney Barrett, named like him by former Republican President Donald Trump, for her part noted that it was possible to entrust an unwanted newborn to adoption services, available throughout the country.

“Alarming”

The three progressive judges warned them against such a turnaround. Changing position because of “social or political pressure” or after the arrival of “new members” could undermine the “legitimacy” of the Court, noted Judge Stephen Breyer.

“If people think that everything is political, how can the Court survive? “, Added his colleague Sonia Sotomayor, while the American left is already pushing to reform the influential institution after the arrival of three judges chosen by Donald Trump.

Without getting into the political debate, lawyer Julie Rinkelman argued – on behalf of the only Mississippi clinic that performs abortions – that validating that state’s law would be tantamount to overturning Roe v. Wade, even without saying it. “Without the criterion of viability, there will be no limit and states will rush to ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy,” she said.

Joe Biden’s government has supported him. “Nearly half of the States are ready to ban abortion at different stages” and this will have “rapid and serious concrete effects” for “the freedom of women”, pleaded its representative Elizabeth Prelogar.

At the end of the hearing, the Democratic president for his part let it be known that he “continued to support” the Roe v. Wade, “the most rational” in his eyes.

The powerful organization Planned Parenthood, which operates abortion clinics across the country, has expressed deep concern. “It is alarming that a majority of judges seem ready to let politicians control our bodies,” said its president Alexis McGill Johnson.