The impact of the Supreme Court’s abortion cases

Monday’s Supreme Court oral arguments will be historic.

For more than 40 years the court has heard cases on abortion rights. And Monday, in a pair of cases, their attention will shift from late-term abortions to the very procedure that is legal in the first trimester — the first time since 1973 that these cases are heading to the top court.

The court heard an appeal from a Missouri woman who was denied abortion services when she sought to end her pregnancy because she is mentally disabled. And it heard an appeal from a Texas woman who was denied late-term abortion services when she sought to end her pregnancy because she felt that her fetus did not have a viable chance of survival.

The questions before the justices are basic: Can a woman undergo an abortion and not need to tell her doctor beforehand that she is mentally disabled? Should a woman be required to tell her doctor when she is seeking an abortion if she believes her child may have disabilities, and if so, should she be required to tell him or her before receiving an abortion?

Monday’s arguments could be historic not only for the court and the importance of its decisions — they also revolve around the future of the GOP and President Donald Trump in Congress and the 2017-18 Supreme Court. For the first time in 40 years, both the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Majority Whip John Cornyn have said the pro-life movement will be able to influence the composition of the court as long as the president remains in office.

That means the conservative wing of the court could continue to shift further to the right. But even if it weren’t, the right wing of the court is obviously positioned to support rules that would take away a woman’s right to an abortion in late-term abortions.

As the days go by there’s not much anyone can predict about the final outcome of either of these cases, but it would be unwise to bet against what will likely be precedent-setting rulings that might affect not only abortion, but also the core challenges to Obamacare and marriage equality and more.

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