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The Supreme Court Sets A Date For Arguments In Case That Could Challenge Roe V. Wade

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Dec. 1 in the case <em>Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization</em>, which has the potential to pose a serious challenge to <em>Roe v. Wade.</em>
J. Scott Applewhite
Associated Press
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Dec. 1 in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which has the potential to pose a serious challenge to Roe v. Wade.

Updated September 20, 2021 at 8:02 PM ET

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Dec. 1 in a case from Mississippi that tests whether all state laws that ban pre-viability abortions are unconstitutional.

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, has the potential to pose a serious challenge to Roe v. Wade. That's the 1973 ruling that declared that a woman has a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy in the first six months of her pregnancy, when the fetus is incapable of surviving outside the womb.

Mississippi bans most abortions after 15 weeks, significantly before fetal viability, which is typically between 22 and 24 weeks. A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative in the U.S., blocked enforcement of the law, finding it in conflict with Roe v. Wade and subsequent abortion decisions.

Mississippi's law is one of many that conservative states have passed in the last year or more, seeking to eliminate or severely restrict abortion. Bans on pre-viability abortion have been struck down, until now, in a dozen states since 2019, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Tennessee.

In May, the court agreed to hear the case. Monday's announcement puts a date on that decision.

The court's announcement came weeks after the high court allowed Texas to move forward — for now — with a new law to ban abortions after cardiac activity is detected. This happens usually after six weeks, which is often before women know they're pregnant.

The Mississippi case has drawn widespread attention, with more than 1,125 friend-of-the-court briefs filed so far, most of them from conservative, religious, and anti-abortion groups. More were filed from the other side on Monday, including a brief from more than 500 female athletes, including Olympians, professional and collegiate athletes. Among them are Megan Rapinoe, an Olympic Gold Medalist and two-time soccer World Cup Champion team member; Ashleigh Johnson, another gold medal winner and the first Black woman on the U.S. Olympic water polo team; Diane Taursi, the WNBA's all-time leading scorer, five-time Olympic gold medalist; and Crissy Perham, two-time gold medalist and captain of the 1992 Olympic swim team.

"This brief marks the first time I have publicly shared my abortion story," said Perham. "When I was in college on a swimming scholarship, and on birth control, I became pregnant. I made the very personal decision to have an abortion, which empowered me to take control of my future. Others may have made a different decision in that situation, but my decision ultimately allowed me to become and Olympian, a college graduate, and a proud mother today. That is what I'm fighting for--everyone to be afforded the freedom to make their own decisions about their bodies."

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Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.
Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.