US supreme court to hear arguments in Mississippi case that threatens Roe v Wade

The US supreme court has set a date to hear arguments in a Mississippi case that could overturn Roe v Wade, the near-50-year-old ruling that guarantees a woman’s right to abortion.

Oral arguments in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization will be heard on 1 December. The case concerns a law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a direct challenge to Roe v Wade.

News of the court date arrived amid controversy over a Texas law, known as SB8, which effectively bans abortion at six weeks and empowers citizens to sue providers and anyone who helps a woman access their services.

Earlier this month, the supreme court, now dominated by conservatives, allowed the Texas law to stand via an emergency ruling.

In a statement on Monday, the White House said it “strongly supports” a House bill meant to protect access to abortion.

The Texas law, it said, “blatantly violates existing supreme court precedent established under Roe v Wade”.

The House is expected to advance legislation designed to stop states from enacting anti-abortion measures like the one in Texas.

But though the bill is expected to pass the Democratic-held House, it will face an uphill battle in the evenly split Senate, where most legislation requires 60 votes. Most Republicans oppose abortion and support calls to overturn Roe v Wade.

The White House statement said: “In the wake of Texas’ unprecedented attack, it has never been more important to codify this constitutional right and to strengthen healthcare access for all women, regardless of where they live.”

In the Mississippi case, lawyers for Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only licensed abortion facility in the state, have asked the court to reject the state’s request to “jettison a half-century of settled precedent” and warned that if the law is upheld, the “fallout would be swift and certain”.

The law, known as the Gestational Age Act, was passed in 2018. It allows abortion after 15 weeks in cases involving “medical emergencies or for severe fetal abnormality”. Like the Texas law, it contains no exception for rape or incest.

Under the Mississippi law, doctors could have medical licenses suspended or revoked if they perform abortions that do not comply with the law.

Also on Monday, NBC News reported that nearly 900 state legislators from 45 states had filed a brief with the supreme court, asking it to reject the Mississippi law.

Of the 897 state legislators who signed the brief, 895 were Democrats and two independents. The only states that did not provide at least one signatory were Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Wyoming.

On Saturday, Cecile Richards, a former head of Planned Parenthood, marked the first anniversary of the death of the liberal supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by releasing an open letter emphasising the renewed threat to abortion rights.

Speaking to the Associated Press, she said: “We are in a post-Roe world now. Here in the state of Texas, Roe is no longer in effect … and all it takes is a Republican governor and a Republican legislature. Your state could be exactly the same.”

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