Supreme Court punts abortion cases
Abortion | The court stalls on highly politicized cases until after the Georgia runoff elections
by Leah Hickman
Posted 12/14/20, 03:34 pm
The Supreme Court rescheduled private discussion of a pair of abortion-related cases last week. The justices have continued to put off deciding whether to take up cases that would reveal the new court’s stance on abortion.
The first case, from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, deals with a Mississippi law protecting babies after 15 weeks gestation with exceptions for fetal abnormalities or medical emergencies. Both sides of the debate have had their eyes on this law. It’s one of 17 cases just a step away from the Supreme Court with potential to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide. With the recent addition of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the bench, pro-abortion groups are calling laws like this one an “imminent” threat to legal abortion.
The court had the case on the agenda for Dec. 11 but rescheduled two days before for a to-be-determined date. The justices have pushed back discussion of the case nine times.
A second case, out of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, challenges a 2005 Pittsburgh ordinance prohibiting pro-life protestors and sidewalk counselors from coming within 15 feet of abortion facility entrances. According to the Supreme Court website, the court had also slated this case for discussion in conference on Dec. 11 but opted to reschedule it that day. This is the third time the court has punted consideration of the case, originally planned for Nov. 20.
Unlike the Mississippi protections, this case poses no direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. But a Supreme Court decision on the issue would show how Barrett is likely to vote on future abortion-related cases.
The Supreme Court calendar lists no more conference dates in December, so the justices won’t consider potential cases again until Jan. 8. In the meantime, Georgia will hold runoff elections for its two Senate seats following an incredibly tight race in November. Abortion looks to play a significant role in the contentious vote that could decide whether Republicans or Democrats control the chamber.
“My theory on both of those abortion-related cases is that enough justices want to wait until after the Jan. 5 Georgia runoffs before making a decision,” pro-life lobbyist Samuel Lee said. “That keeps the court out of the political debate (theoretically, at least) until after that election—and the outcome of control of the U.S. Senate.”
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