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U.S. Supreme Court To Review Mississippi Abortion Law

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

What's at stake as the Supreme Court considers a Mississippi abortion law? That law bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. If it's upheld, that would dramatically change how states may limit abortion. Our coverage begins with NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: For nearly a half-century since the court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision, the court has drawn a legal line in the sand on when states may ban abortions. That line said that pre-viability in the first six months of pregnancy when a fetus cannot survive outside the womb, a woman has the right to determine her own reproductive destiny. And that includes terminating the pregnancy. But yesterday, the court for the first time said it will reconsider where that line is drawn, whether a state may ban abortions regardless of fetal viability and, potentially, whether states may ban abortions entirely.

JAMES BOPP: The question that they have agreed to consider, it's very broad. I mean, it couldn't be broader, in my opinion.

TOTENBERG: James Bopp is the longtime counsel for National Right to Life, one of the nation's leading anti-abortion groups. Ironically, his adversaries agree. NYU law professor Melissa Murray.

MELISSA MURRAY: It puts Roe v. Wade squarely in the crosshairs.

TOTENBERG: It does more than that. This is the second time in less than a month that the court, with a six to three conservative supermajority, has signaled a potential willingness to reverse precedent or plow new ground. In April, with mass shootings proliferating, it agreed to hear a challenge to a New York law, like those in other states, that requires a license to carry a concealed firearm. While conservative groups see victory in the wind, those like Professor Murray see something more ominous.

MURRAY: We are seeing a more emboldened conservative majority willing to take things up, willing to take fights that I think in the past they might have shied away from. They're not shying away now.

TOTENBERG: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.