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In this Sept. 3 photo, the Supreme Court is shown in Washington. (AP photo)

Supreme Court sets arguments in big abortion case

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will hear arguments Dec. 1 in Mississippi’s bid to have the landmark Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion overturned.

The court issued its arguments calendar for late November and early December on Monday.

Mississippi is asking the high court to uphold its ban on most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. The state has told the court it should overrule Roe and the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that prevent states from banning abortion before viability, the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

The court recently allowed a Texas law to take effect that bans abortions after cardiac activity can be detected, around 6 weeks of pregnancy, before some women even know they are pregnant. The law is unusual in that it allows private citizens to sue people who may have facilitated a prohibited abortion. The court, split 5-4, did not rule on the constitutionality of the law, but rather declined to block enforcement while a challenge to the law plays out in the courts.

Still, abortion providers took the vote as an ominous sign about where the court, its conservative majority fortified with three appointees of former President Donald Trump, might be heading on abortion.

The providers have said Mississippi wants the court to “scuttle a half-century of precedent and invite states to ban abortion entirely.”

The Mississippi law was enacted in 2018, but was blocked after a federal court challenge. The state’s only abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, remains open and offers abortions up to 16 weeks of pregnancy. About 100 abortions a year are done after the 15th week, the providers said.

More than 90% of abortions in the U.S. take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The justices will be at their seats in the marble courtroom for the biggest test of abortion rights in decades.

The high court announced earlier this month that the justices plan to return to their majestic, marble courtroom for arguments beginning in October, more than a year and a half after the in-person sessions were halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The court is allowing live audio of the session, but members of the public will not be able to attend in person because of the coronavirus pandemic. Reporters who cover the court regularly will be present.

The justices all have been vaccinated, the court has said, allowing a return to in-person arguments after more than a year of arguments via telephone. The courthouse remains closed to the public.

The justices  had been hearing cases by phone  during the pandemic.

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