The Supreme Court is now debating the future of abortion rights in the United States.
The conservative majority may be set to overturn or severely restrict the effect of the historic Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized the contentious operation.
Since Brown v. Board of Education, the Mississippi Supreme Court has had possibly its most dramatic chance to reject its own decision.
A case pending in the court now provides that potential.
That may be because few social issues elicit as much emotional and political passion as the constitutional right to abortion, which has been the subject of countrywide judicial battles for over 50 years.
On Wednesday morning, the nine justices will hear a challenge to the government's prohibition on abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The question is whether any state legislation that restricts elective abortions before a woman reaches the age of viability is unconstitutional.
In a daring move, Mississippi authorities have petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established that abortions are permitted nationally until around the 24th week, the threshold of viability at which the embryo can survive outside the womb.
Lower courts have ruled against it and a later state statute prohibiting abortion beyond six weeks.
The state's sole surviving abortion clinic, which has received support from the Biden administration, has petitioned the Supreme Court to maintain Roe v. Wade's essential decision and strike down the Mississippi law.
Even though it was passed in 2018, lower federal courts have barred its implementation.
"Abortion is a racial and economic justice issue," said Shannon Brewer in a recent New York Times op-ed. "The [restrictive state] laws are inherently racist and classist; they keep Black and Brown people down. And the research is detailed: A woman who is denied an abortion is more likely to live in poverty even years later."
"The Roe decision shackles state to a view of facts that is decades old, such that while science, medicine, technology, and culture have all rapidly progressed since 1973, duly enacted laws on abortion are unable to keep up," said Lynn Fitch, Mississippi Attorney General. "The Supreme Court can return decision-making about abortion policy to the elected leaders and allow the people to empower women and promote life."
Abortion restrictions were instituted in the United States as early as the nineteenth century. A quickening, the stage of pregnancy when a woman begins to feel fetal movements, Connecticut became the first state to abolish them in 1821, and it was precisely after that point.
It was not until the 1960s that a concerted effort was made to loosen the restrictions on abortion that proved successful.
Health-care technology has progressed to the point that procedures could be carried out safely by qualified medical personnel in clean, professional facilities.
As early as the 1970s, a handful of states had altered their legislation, albeit most did so in minor ways.
The legal battles culminated in Roe v. Wade, a 7-2 ruling by the Supreme Court that granted women a qualified constitutional right to abortion throughout the majority of their pregnancies.
Roe v. Wade (involving Norma McCorvey, who later became an abortion opponent) challenged a Texas law banning abortions except in life-threatening emergencies; and Doe v. Bolton.
Which involved a Georgia law requiring abortions to be performed only in accredited hospitals and only after being reviewed by two doctors other than the woman's physician and an exam by two doctors other than the woman's physician.
The court heard both cases around the same time.
In the over three decades thereafter, the Supreme Court has resisted the temptation to challenge the Roe v. Wade decision openly.
The appointment of three justices by President Trump, on the other hand, was seen as an opportunity by abortion opponents, including those in state legislatures, to pursue abortion restrictions aggressively to test the court's fidelity to its previous rulings and to test the court's commitment to its earlier rulings.
They erupted in applause when the Supreme Court decided to consider limits imposed by Mississippi and Texas separately.
The opinions of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett will all be critical in determining the result of both lawsuits.