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ABORTION rights campaigners in the United States vowed to continue their fight today after the Supreme Court indicated its support for significant restrictions on the right to a termination.
In a case with widespread implications, the conservative-dominated bench hinted on Wednesday that it could uphold Mississippi’s 15-week ban on terminations — a move that had been blocked by lower courts.
The case could therefore result in a ruling that overturns the landmark Roe v Wade decision, which has guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion since 1973.
The court’s decision is not set to be confirmed until June or July next year, but the bench is now stacked with right-leaning judges by a margin of six to three.
Women in the US currently have the right to an abortion up until the point that a foetus can survive outside the womb — after about 24 weeks of pregnancy.
But conservatives want to see those rights restricted or even scrapped altogether, and a ruling in favour of Mississippi’s law could see at least 20 states introduce a full or partial ban.
Wednesday’s hearing comprised oral arguments in the case of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organisation, seen by many as the most important abortion rights case in nearly five decades.
Mississippi Solicitor-General Scott Stewart has led calls for repeal of the constitutional right to an abortion.
“When an issue affects everyone and when the constitution does not take sides on it, it belongs to the people,” he argued during the hearing.
“This court should overrule Roe and Casey and uphold the state’s law,” he said, referencing the landmark 1992 ruling that reaffirmed the Roe v Wade decision.
But lawyer Julie Rikelman, representing the Centre for Reproductive Rights, said: “For a state to take control of a woman’s body and demand that she goes through childbirth – with all the physical risks and life-altering consequences that it brings – is a fundamental deprivation of her liberty.”
She argued that, without a legal cut-off, “states will rush to ban abortion at virtually any point in pregnancy.”
“We will continue to make every argument we can in the federal courts, we will continue to litigate in the state courts … we will not stop fighting, because it is just too important.”
US Solicitor-General Elizabeth Prelogar said the “real-world effects” of overturning the constitutional right to abortion would be ”severe and swift.”
Patriot Voices, a powerful conservative anti-abortion lobby group, meanwhile branded supporters of legal terminations “depraved.”
Its founder, extreme right-wing Republican senator Rick Santorum, claimed: “They’ve had 50 years of trying to convince the American public that abortion is a good thing. And guess what? They haven’t succeeded.”
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