Cover photo credit: <https://reproductiverights.org/case/scotus-mississippi-abortion-ban/>.
Abortion rights are once again at the Supreme Court of the United States. Oral arguments were presented on Wednesday (12/1) over the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center. If the SCOTUS rules in favor of the state of Mississippi, upholding its Gestational Age Act, a new precedent will be set for individual states to set new restrictions on the female healthcare procedure with 15 weeks as the new cut off date to obtain said procedure (the current cut off date is 24 weeks). Whereas several more conservative states have interests in enacting similar laws within there their own jurisdictions, a ruling from the SCOTUS in favor of Mississippi would effectively kick the issue back to the states. The silver lining for the more liberal states would be that they could enact their own protections for abortion services within their jurisdictions but there would still be a burden on lower class women in conservative areas; obviously if you’re in a lower economic class you cannot travel as easily as if you were more financially stable.
I think that if the SCOTUS rules in favor of Mississippi in Mississippi v. Jackson Women’s Health Center it will further damage what credibility the court holds. The right to an abortion was cemented in 1973 with Roe v. Wade and affirmed in 1992 with Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
The Chief Justice of the SCOTUS at the time of Roe v. Wade was Warren Burger, a life-long political scientist and lawyer who helped secure his home state for then-Republican presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower back during the Republican presidential convention of 1952. Warren Burger was nominated to the SCOTUS by President Richard Nixon in 1969 whom apparently agreed with Burger’s more strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Burger would later vote with the majority in Roe v. Wade as well as lead a unanimous court against President Nixon in United States v. Nixon.
The Chief Justice at the time of Planned Parenthood v. Casey was William Rehnquist, an American lawyer who also believed in a more strict interpretation of the Constitution emphasizing the 10th Amendment, reserving powers not explicitly given to the federal government to the respective states. Rehnquist opposed both decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Abortion rights have survived two conservative chief justices and has been established law in the United States for 48 years now, enough time to envelope two generations of Americans. The SCOTUS was designed to create a relatively stable system of law throughout these states while resisting shaky whims of populations, it was not meant to be a political body as are the U.S. Congress and the office of the Presidency. If the current conservative majority on the SCOTUS rule in favor of Mississippi, I fear that the court will become more political and divisive with justices reversing whatever rulings their personal politics dictate at the time.
The rhetoric against abortion is a religious pseudo-argument, a remnant of archaic thinking that limits critical thinking skills and ties humanity to superstitious traditions masquerading as wisdom. Religious pseudo-arguments have no place in what is supposed to be a secular government. The argument in favor of abortion as a legitimate medical procedure is an empirical, libertarian argument advocating for individual liberty placing one’s autonomy over their physical body above nebulous ideas of the “sanctity of life.” Arbiters of the law need to root their argumentation and discourse in practical aspects of the physical world rather than in vague and hypothetical religious concepts.
There is also the subject of equality between males and females to consider: like most mammals female humans bare more of a burden in child rearing simply because they are the ones to physically give birth to the child. This phenomenon of evolution gears mammals towards family groups for survival in nature. However, modern human societies are relatively insulated from the harsh realities of nature and our technology and understanding of science have almost guaranteed the survival of our young (at least in developed, wealthy countries). The tight-knit, closed family groups which humans relied upon for survival in our early history are arguably less necessary. Whether or not this speculation of our social evolution is a net positive or a net negative for our morals is a subjective debate which I will not advance upon further but it is undeniable that our modern medical tools and practices around reproduction have elevated human females in our social positions by giving them more control over the ability to reproduce.