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Tufts University School of Medicine

What Lies Ahead for Abortion Rights?

Demonstrators gathered outside the Supreme Court on December 1, the day the justices heard oral arguments in the Mississippi abortion law case. Photo: Michael Robb Photography/Shutterstock
Wednesday, December 8, 2021 - 7:00pm

Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could have wide repercussions for abortion laws across the country, as well as the public perception of the court itself.

“The court spoke to the risk that this decision could make the court look like a political body,” said attorney Marcia Boumil, a professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. “Unfortunately, it appears that it is headed that way.”

At issue is a Mississippi law, passed in 2018, that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which is at odds with the previous standard that guaranteed abortion rights up until the time a fetus would be viable outside the womb, or about 24 weeks into pregnancy.

The case was closely watched by both sides of the debate, and the arguments last week left no doubt that this was the most significant abortion rights case in decades. Some of the justices in the six-member conservative majority asked questions that suggested they would not only uphold the Mississippi law, but would consider overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that established abortion as a constitutional right.

Boumil is director of the School of Medicine’s JD/MPH Program, a dual degree program run in conjunction with the law schools of Boston College and Northeastern University. Her research focuses include health policy and health law and ethics. Tufts Now spoke with her about the Mississippi case and what it may mean for abortion access in that state and around the U.S.

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