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In recent months, there have been some potentially landmark developments on abortion. It could well be that the middle of 2021 will mark an historic turning point on an issue that has been one of the cultural hot buttons in America for decades. On May 17, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs. The case deals with Mississippi’s law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This marks the first time that the Court will rule on the constitutionality of a pre-viability abortion ban since Roe v. Wade. The case also features a novel conservative legal argument that the writers of the 14th Amendment, which is foundational to the Roe decision, would have considered “persons” to include “unborn children” and that fetuses are “persons” from the time of conception.
The other development is a new Texas law that creates an end run around the federal courts and Supreme Court rulings, by creating an avenue for individuals to sue people connected with providing abortions in civil court…making what one analyst called a market for abortion vigilantism.
That analyst is one of the sharpest-eyed commentators on law and legal history around, and she’s with us today. Mia Brett has a PhD in history and specializes in American legal history. She’s a freelance writer, educator, and a contributor to The Editorial Board.