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The Supreme Court Is About To Hear the Biggest, Most Direct Challenge To Roe v. Wade Ever

Here's what you need to know going into Wednesday's arguments.

Abortion rights activists rally in front of the US Supreme Court

This Wednesday, December 1, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the most serious and really the first direct challenge to Roe v. Wade since that landmark case was decided nearly 50 years ago.

We will likely have more information up tomorrow about how the day goes, as well as coverage of the massive protests planned, but for now, it seems worth it to give at least a brief explainer of what this case entails and what sets it apart from all the other horrifying challenges to abortion rights we’ve been seeing pop up across the country.

This case centers around a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. A lot of (very correct) people are arguing that the Supreme Court should not even be hearing this case in the first place, seeing as Roe explicitly makes pre-viability (the point when a fetus can survive outside of the uterus, around 24 to 28 weeks) abortions a constitutionally protected right. We’ve seen other challenges to that right, like Texas’ extreme six-week ban, but that law presented the court with a whole host of nefarious loopholes to discuss, rather than presenting a more straightforward challenge to the pre-viability issue, as we’re getting now in Dobbs.

Let’s not let there be any mistake about this—Dobbs is a direct challenge to the constitutional protection of pre-viability abortion access as set out in Roe v. Wade, as well as the protections established in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This is a straight-up “test case”—a case specifically designed to test an existing law and set a new precedent on which to build future laws.

And let’s not be naive here. The ultimate goal of anti-abortion advocates is not to establish a 15-week abortion ban, or even a six-week ban as we see in Texas. Once SCOTUS allows a pre-viability abortion ban—which, again, would essentially fully overturn Roe v. Wade—that lays the groundwork for banning abortion entirely, which is, obviously, the end goal for the people leading this charge.

So that’s the gist of where we’re at going into tomorrow. The court convenes at 10 am Eastern and arguments will be available to live-stream—here’s the general C-SPAN link but we’ll update if something better presents itself. There are also giant protests planned if you’re in the DC or Jackson area and want to join in. You can find more information about that here.

Also, the people behind (what I personally consider to be) the best reproductive journalism out there—the folks at Rewire News Group—are planning to live-tweet the day and also do a virtual decompression happy hour afterward.

This is going to be a big, scary, historic day no matter what. Feel free to share your fears, your anger, your whatever, in the comments.


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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.