SCOTUS Hearing Suggests Conservative Majority Ready to Overturn Roe, Uphold Mississippi Ban

Oral arguments in the Mississippi abortion law case signaled that former President Donald Trump may finally get the chance to fulfill his campaign promise of overturning Roe v. Wade.

On Wednesday, questions from the Supreme Court's new 6-3 conservative majority—solidified last year by Trump appointee Justice Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation—suggested that it would hand a win to the anti-abortion movement and uphold the ban in Mississippi prohibiting most abortions after 15 weeks.

Chief Justice John Roberts' skepticism aside, the conservative justices also seemed ready to dole out another victory to anti-abortion groups, hinting they would likely reverse the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe.

Assuming the three most conservative members of the court—Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch—will overrule Roe entirely, the decision would rest largely on Roberts and the two more "moderate" conservatives, Justices Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh.

During the hearing in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, Roberts repeatedly asked about the viability line in Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, indicating that he was searching for a way to uphold Mississippi's ban by discarding the idea of viability while maintaining precedent and avoiding having to formally reverse Roe.

Kavanaugh and Barrett, on the other hand, seemed uninterested in doing so.

Abortion Roe Wade SCOTUS Supreme Court Conservative
The Supreme Court's 6-3 conservative majority could overturn Roe v. Wade and uphold Mississippi's controversial abortion ban. Above, demonstrators gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, a case about a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, on December 1, 2021 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

If both of them side with their more conservative colleagues, the court would have enough justices in a majority to overrule the landmark decision.

Pro-abortion rights activists had hoped that Kavanaugh's commitment to prioritizing stare decisis in his interpretation of the law would reaffirm Roe, but Kavanaugh listed numerous landmark cases that had overturned prior precedents on Wednesday, saying that had justices followed stare decisis in those cases, "the country would be in a much different place."

Barrett focused her questions on adoption and safe haven laws, which allow a parent to legally abandon an infant with a designated person so the child can become a ward of the state, suggesting that abortion is unnecessary when these other options would be available after carrying a pregnancy to term.

The court's three liberal members—Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor—were insistent that Roe should stand.

They argued that overruling precedent would cause the public to see the Supreme Court as "a political institution that will go back and forth" depending on its membership.

"Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception?" Sotomayor asked Mississippi's solicitor general, Scott Stewart.

However, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor do not have the numbers to ensure that Roe is upheld.

Supreme Court rulings typically come three months after arguments are heard, but the decision is not expected until late June or early July.