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Politics: 3 lawyers readying arguments in high court abortion case

An Irish tale of warning on American abortion

  An Irish tale of warning on American abortion What happens when abortion is made illegal or unavailable is clear and a cautionary tale as the U.S. enters a post-Roe era. Ireland offers a human-rights-infused way forward for abortion rights in the U.S. and indeed globally. After 35 years of a regime that banned all abortion, Ireland now provides safe, legal and funded services throughout the first trimester of pregnancy. American abortion activists rallying to "Save Roe" would do well to look across the pond for inspiration and examples of successful human-rights-based strategies.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Leading up to Wednesday's major abortion case at the Supreme Court, the justices have heard from thousands of people and organizations urging the court to either save or scrap two historic abortion decisions.

Barriers to separate activists are set up outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, ahead of arguments on abortion at the court in Washington.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) © Provided by Associated Press Barriers to separate activists are set up outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, ahead of arguments on abortion at the court in Washington.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

But on Wednesday they'll hear from just three lawyers: one representing the state of Mississippi, another representing Mississippi's only abortion clinic and the last representing the Biden administration. For each, it’s a chance to be part of what is likely to be a historic case.

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  Mississippi asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade in blockbuster abortion case The state's legal argument is the sharpest framing yet of the dispute as Mississippi engages in a frontal assault on the right to abortion.The high court agreed in May to hear a challenge to Mississippi's ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, giving its new, six-member conservative majority a chance to roll back the 1973 ruling that women have a constitutional right to abortion.

The three are scheduled to appear before the justices for just over an hour's worth of arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, though the arguments will likely go longer. Mississippi is asking the justices to overturn two seminal decisions, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, decisions that say women have a constitutional right to abortion before a fetus is viable.

Amelia Bonow, left, with her cousin Lila Bonow, Emily Nokes, and Sara Edwards, all with the group, © Provided by Associated Press Amelia Bonow, left, with her cousin Lila Bonow, Emily Nokes, and Sara Edwards, all with the group, "Shout Your Abortion," hold a sign outside of the Supreme Court, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, as activists begin to arrive ahead of arguments on abortion at the court on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Lawyers who argued those historic cases became famous in their own ways. Sarah Weddington was just 26 when in 1971 she argued Roe v. Wade on behalf of Norma Jean McCorvey, who was known by the pseudonym Jane Roe. Weddington went on to a career in government and academia.

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Opposing her was Texas attorney Jay Floyd, who became infamous for opening his argument with a failed attempt at humor. “It’s an old joke, but when a man argues against two beautiful ladies like this, they're going to have the last word," he said. When the high court ordered the case re-argued, Floyd was replaced.

Two decades later, when the court heard arguments in the Casey case, Pennsylvania Attorney General Ernest D. Preate Jr. argued in support of his state's abortion law. He later spent time in prison for secretly taking campaign contributions from the operators of illegal gambling machines. The lawyer arguing on behalf of President George H.W. Bush's administration and in support of Pennsylvania, meanwhile, was Ken Starr. It was two years before he was tapped to lead the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment. The third attorney who argued in the case, Kathryn Kolbert, co-founded the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is involved in Wednesday's case.

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  Lone Mississippi clinic on front line of U.S. Supreme Court abortion battle Lone Mississippi clinic on front line of U.S. Supreme Court abortion battleJACKSON, Miss. (Reuters) - As a car drove into the parking lot of Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic, the only abortion provider in the state of Mississippi, anti-abortion activist Beverly Anderson leaned in to speak to the woman in the passenger's seat.

Katherine Hunter, of College Park, Md., holds a sign outside the Supreme Court, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, as activists begin to arrive ahead of arguments on abortion at the court on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) © Provided by Associated Press Katherine Hunter, of College Park, Md., holds a sign outside the Supreme Court, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, as activists begin to arrive ahead of arguments on abortion at the court on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Here are some things to know about the advocates arguing this week:

SCOTT G. STEWART

Scott G. Stewart will defend a Mississippi law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks. Lower courts declared the law unconstitutional.

Though the case marks the first Supreme Court appearance for Stewart, 39, he will be familiar to some of the justices. A graduate of Princeton and Stanford's law school, he was a law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas in 2016 when the court dealt abortion opponents a loss, striking down Texas’ widely replicated rules that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and forced clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.

The Supreme Court is seen, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, as activists arrive ahead of arguments on abortion at the court on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) © Provided by Associated Press The Supreme Court is seen, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, as activists arrive ahead of arguments on abortion at the court on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Thomas dissented from that decision, and Stewart's argument that the justices should overturn Roe and Casey is a position that Thomas himself has taken.

SCOTUS to Hear Biggest Abortion Case Since Roe, Where Barrett, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch Stand

  SCOTUS to Hear Biggest Abortion Case Since Roe, Where Barrett, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch Stand SCOTUS' 6-3 conservative majority could overturn Roe v. Wade when justices take up the biggest legal challenge to abortion rights since the 1973 landmark case.On Wednesday, the Supreme Court, which now has a 6-3 conservative majority, will hear oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization—a case challenging both Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Before becoming Mississippi's solicitor general, Stewart worked for the Department of Justice during the Trump administration. In that role, he defended administration policies including making asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. immigration court and preventing a pregnant teen who entered the country illegally from obtaining an abortion while in federal custody.

JULIE RIKELMAN

Arguing against the state of Mississippi is Julie Rikelman of the Center for Reproductive Rights who represents the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi's lone abortion clinic. The clinic sued after the state passed its ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

Because of other restrictions the state has put on abortions, the clinic only performs abortions up to 16 weeks. It says about 100 of the abortions it performs every year occur after 15 weeks.

Rikelman, 49, will be arguing before the court for the second time. Last year, before the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her replacement by conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the Harvard law graduate argued and won another abortion case. In that case, the center represented a clinic and doctors asking the court to strike down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics. Rikelman has said she made the argument on very little sleep, not because she was nervous but because her hotel's fire alarm was blaring much of the night.

Abortion debate epicenter: Mississippi clinic stays open

  Abortion debate epicenter: Mississippi clinic stays open JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — As the U.S. Supreme Court hears a Mississippi case that could topple abortion rights nationwide, the state’s only abortion clinic is busier than ever: Volunteers continue to escort patients into the bright pink building while protesters outside beseech women not to end their pregnancies. In recent years, Jackson Women's Health Organization saw patients two or three days a week. It recently doubled its hours to treat women from Texas, where a law took effect in early September banning most abortions at about six weeks, and from Louisiana, where clinics are filling with Texas patients.

Rikelman immigrated to the United States when she was six. Her family is Jewish and fled Ukraine and to escape discrimination. Rikelman says her background made her “more aware of issues of fairness and discrimination” and helped spark an interest in reproductive rights.

ELIZABETH PRELOGAR

The Biden administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, Elizabeth Prelogar, will argue for the federal government. The administration's position is that Roe and Casey were correctly decided and that overturning them would cause "grave harm."

Prelogar, 41, will be making her eleventh argument before the court. Just weeks ago she argued a different Supreme Court case involving abortion. That case was about a restrictive Texas abortion law that prohibits abortion after cardiac activity is detected in a fetus. That's usually around six weeks and before some women know they are pregnant. Prelogar was arguing that the federal government can mount a federal court challenge to the law. The justices have not yet announced their decision in that case.

Before being confirmed to her current position, Prelogar served on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. She speaks Russian and lived there as a Fulbright scholar. A graduate of Emory and Harvard law school, she has the rare distinction of having been a law clerk for two Supreme Court justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. She is also a former Miss Idaho.

Prelogar is only the second woman to lead the solicitor general's office on a permanent basis. Kagan led the office during President Barack Obama's administration before becoming a justice.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, here's what happens .
If it overturns Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court would unleash a series of state-level legislative battles and fuel heated public debateWhile it's difficult to predict outcomes, observers have suggested the court's conservative majority will strike down decades of precedent following Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that limited government restrictions on abortion. In doing so, it could allow state legislatures to pass laws banning abortions prior to fetal viability.

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