Supreme Court faces unavoidable abortion cases

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By Carina

The United States Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, is currently at the heart of pivotal questions concerning abortion rights. 

This heightened attention comes less than two years after a landmark ruling indicated that judges would no longer be the primary arbiters of abortion policy. 

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Legal perspectives on ongoing abortion debate

In the current term, the Court is set to deliberate on two significant abortion-related cases, each highlighting the conflict between federal law and the stringent abortion prohibitions enacted by some states. 

Additional cases on this topic are progressing through the legal system, with a high likelihood of reaching the Supreme Court.

Legal analysts have expressed skepticism about the finality of the Dobbs decision, which overturned the seminal Roe v. Wade ruling. 

Many view the shift of abortion law jurisdiction to states as impractical. 

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Dobbs ruling and its impact on state control of abortion law

Contrasting with this view, the majority opinion in the 2022 Dobbs ruling posited that the court’s “nine unelected members” should not override the democratic process to set a nationwide abortion policy. 

Rachel Rebouché, Dean of Temple University School of Law, reflected on this, stating, “I think the idea that abortion law would become only state domain, that the Court would bow out of abortion decisions, or that the post-Dobbs legal landscape would be more ‘workable’ was always misguided and impossible.”

The upcoming cases in the Supreme Court involve critical aspects of abortion access. 

Supreme Court cases scrutinize Mifepristone access, federal abortion laws

One focuses on the abortion pill mifepristone, questioning the legality of national policies aimed at expanding access to this drug. 

The second case examines whether federal emergency care laws mandate abortion provisions in specific medical situations. 

Decisions in these cases, expected by June’s end, could substantially affect access to abortion, even in states without restrictive abortion laws.

Mifepristone, used in approximately half of all abortions in the U.S., represents a critical method for terminating pregnancies. 

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Far-reaching implications of court decisions

The Court’s decision could significantly impact access to this drug. The other case under review involves medical exceptions to abortion bans.

Specifically, it questions whether the federal government can compel hospitals receiving federal funds to provide abortions necessary to stabilize patients. 

This case, prompted by Idaho’s stringent abortion law, could set a precedent affecting abortion bans in other states and the federal government’s ability to challenge such prohibitions.

Legal experts highlight broad impact of state abortion cases on U.S. law

Legal experts, like Greer Donley from the University of Pittsburgh Law School, emphasize that while these cases might initially affect only specific states like Idaho, their implications are profound. 

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A ruling supporting state bans could symbolize a disregard for the health of pregnant individuals and reduce the scope for federal challenges to state abortion laws. 

Mary Ziegler, an abortion historian and law professor at the University of California, Davis, views these cases as just the beginning of a protracted phase of abortion law litigation. 

Shift towards judicial dominance in abortion rights debate in U.S

She suggests that the federal courts might become a more favorable arena for those seeking to restrict abortion rights compared to other democratic processes.

The Supreme Court’s swift action in taking up these cases, especially under circumstances where intervention wasn’t strictly necessary, signals a trend of increasing judicial involvement in abortion law. 

As the legal landscape evolves, these decisions will shape the future of abortion rights and access in the United States.

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