The Supreme Court is now deliberating after hearing arguments over Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The six justices constituting the right-wing supermajority on the Supreme Court have already signaled their propensity to uphold the ban, with several insinuating that a complete overturn of the landmark case Roe v. Wade is on the table.
Protesters defending abortion rights gathered outside the the Supreme Court as the case was being argued on Dec. 1. Far-right, religious fundamentalist forces hope this will be the culmination of their decades-long campaign to roll back women’s equality by taking away the fundamental right to control one’s own body. But people across the country are mobilizing to fight back. Even though comments in court from the justices paint a bleak picture, there is still time for the issue to be taken out of their hands entirely by an act of Congress legalizing abortion.
The hearing is currently focused on defining two crucial terms used in the 1973 Roe v. Wade and 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey rulings: “undue burden” and “viability.” The first term seeks to identify the point at which a legislature imposes burdens overly restrictive of an individual’s ability to obtain an abortion. The latter refers to the developmental point at which a fetus may survive outside of the womb, generally 22 to 24 weeks into pregnancy.
Chief Justice John Roberts — a right-wing George W. Bush appointee who ironically is now considered one of the court’s swing votes — suggested he is seeking a disgusting sort of compromise on this ruling, arguing that the burden imposed by rolling back the abortion deadline from 24 to 15 weeks is insignificant and the Mississippi ban should be upheld on that narrower basis.
Working-class women will bear the brunt of this attack. While this may be overcome with relative ease by the wealthy, if abortion is banned after 15 weeks, working women will have only a few weeks at most to arrange doctors’ visits, take time off work for procedures (often long distances away), and discuss with trusted people.
In a country with no paid maternity leave or universal childcare, there is an exceptional number of factors to consider before welcoming a pregnancy. In fact, paid maternity leave, childcare, and other vital social programs that would be of enormous assistance to working-class mothers are hypocritically opposed by those who outrageously refer to themselves as “pro-life!” The notoriously racist death penalty, however, elicits no such passionate opposition from the supposed pro-lifers.
States like Texas, which passed a “heartbeat bill” forbidding abortions after a mere six weeks, foreshadow what is to come for many states if the core tenets of Roe v. Wade are scrapped during this ruling. Justice Brett Kavanaugh endorsed this future, arguing that abortion should be a “neutral” issue left up to state governments. In preparation for the final ruling, conservative groups nationwide are already fundraising to lobby for completely banning abortion on the state level.
Justice Amy Coney-Barrett also gave shocking reasoning for approving the ban. In addition to the old right-wing line of telling women to simply put the baby up for adoption, she argued that it is hypocritical for the country to favor vaccine mandates against the COVID-19 virus, but not to mandate carrying pregnancies to term. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch has echoed these sentiments, saying she believes it is “empowering” for women to be forced to uproot and mold their life around an unwanted pregnancy.
These arguments are cruel and out-of-touch. Working-class women know that there are huge hurdles in accessing childcare, healthcare, and abortion that the millionaire justices on the Supreme Court do not have to endure. Yet, in this supposed democracy, these nine unelected, appointed-for-life justices now have complete power to slash abortion accessibility nationwide, ignoring that public support for abortion consistently stands at around 60 percent.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a liberal Obama-appointee, expressed concern that this ruling will expose the Supreme Court as a political actor and subsequently delegitimize the institution. “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don’t see how it is possible,” said Sotomayor, a clear reflection of the fear that exists in some ruling-class circles that the ultra-conservatives on the Supreme Court are going too far and will provoke a mass backlash.
This could have been prevented had the Democratic Party taken any of its many opportunities over the decades to definitively legalize abortion through an act of Congress. There is no reason why the legality of abortion has to be left up to the Supreme Court. Right now, the Democrat-controlled Congress could pass a law legalizing abortion at any time without needing a single Republican vote.
The final ruling is expected next summer, right before fall midterm elections where the Republicans may regain control of one or both houses of Congress. There is still time to put pressure on the Democrats — the self-proclaimed defenders of women’s rights — into actually taking action. With militant struggle, working-class women still have a shot at securing rights to their own bodies, health and families.