Dueling mass rallies planned for Supreme Court hearing in pivotal abortion case

Expect plenty of opinions Wednesday at the Supreme Court when crowds of demonstrators converge for rallies timed to oral arguments on a Mississippi abortion law that could upend Roe v. Wade.

Leading groups on both sides of the abortion issue are planning dueling events throughout the day on or near the steps of the high court.

The Women’s March plans to “encircle” the building with volunteers shortly after a 4-hour, pro-life gathering featuring speeches from members of Congress.

Other events include an early morning “Abortion is Essential” rally sponsored by pro-choice groups, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Abortion Access Coalition and Planned Parenthood.

The political theater comes with the justices scheduled to consider a 2018 Mississippi law barring most abortions after 15 weeks’ gestation in a case that both sides agree poses a direct threat to the 1973 Roe ruling that made abortion a federal constitutional right.

“The oral arguments will be addressing the one question that the Supreme Court has agreed to answer, and that is: Is there any pre-viability law in the nation that is constitutional?” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, in a Monday press call.

“We know that if they answer any version of ‘yes,’ that we have a completely different situation on our hands,” she said.

Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson said Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which hinges on whether prohibitions on elective abortions before fetal viability are unconstitutional, could remake the 48-year-old legal landscape on abortion.

“Everyone in this country should be worried about it,” Ms. Johnson said on MSNBC.

“There have been 600 restrictions that have been introduced in this last year alone in 47 states. I’ve been clear: This fight is at all of our doorsteps. This is the case that could absolutely overturn or essentially render Roe meaningless, and that is what this fight is about,” she said.

Also hanging in the balance is the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which upheld abortion as a constitutional right while confirming that states have authority to restrict abortions after fetal viability.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, called Dobbs the court’s “best opportunity yet to undo its fatal mistake” in Roe.

“The question in the case is simple, yet it lies at the heart of the American experiment: Does the United States Constitution require states to withhold legal protection from an entire class of defenseless human beings?” she said in a Monday video.

“According to any straightforward reading of the Constitution, the answer to that question has always been a resounding no,” Mrs. Reynolds said.

A decision in the Mississippi case is not expected until June at the earliest, but nobody expects advocates on either side of the issue to wait quietly until then.

Organizations sponsoring the 8 a.m. pro-life rally include Live Action, the Susan B. Anthony List, the Alliance Defending Freedom and National Right to Life.

Not all the action will take place at the Supreme Court.

The pro-life group Created Equal plans to place a Jumbotron on Tuesday at John Marshall Park less than a mile from the high court, while the Justice Foundation plans to march from the Lincoln Memorial steps to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, according to the National Park Service.

The most dramatic display is planned by the Women’s March, which has scheduled a procession from Columbus Circle to the high court, where two single-file lines of volunteers will encircle the building.

“Once we get the signal that we have encircled the building; we will hold the space with dignity and our collective power,” the Women’s March said on its website. “We are asking folks to stay silent for a moment; and then let out a collective chant of ‘We Hold the Line for Abortion Justice Now’ [and] ‘We stand with Mississippi Women!’”

How will you tell the protesters apart? One hint: Organizers of the pro-life rally have asked participants to wear blue.

The anticipated drama has already produced warnings about traffic congestion.

“If You’re a Commuter, You Might Want to Avoid the Supreme Court on December 1,” said a Nov. 23 headline in the Washingtonian.

At least 20 states have passed abortion restrictions in the last few years, some of which are more stringent than the Mississippi law, which was stayed by a court shortly after passage and has never taken effect.

The pro-choice Guttmacher Institute said that eight states have passed so-called heartbeat bills, which ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, typically at six to eight weeks.

Courts have routinely blocked such measures from taking effect pending legal challenges.

That wave of abortion laws increases the chances that the high court will take another look at Roe. Also working in the pro-life movement’s favor is the court’s newly minted conservative majority of six justices.

Rallies also are planned Wednesday outside Washington in cities such as Jackson, Mississippi, where pro-choice groups including the Mississippi Abortion Action Coalition are holding an “Abortion Freedom Fighters Day of Action.”

“With only one abortion clinic left in the state, Mississippi is already an abortion desert, with some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country and most difficult barriers to overcome for access,” organizers said in a Facebook post. “The Dobbs case is a direct threat to Roe v Wade.”

Certainly, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is counting on it.

The Republican said Monday that she was “hopeful that this case is going to spell out the end of Roe v. Wade.”

“I was born a year before Roe v. Wade. I don’t know really much of anything except a country that has had this unjust situation on our books,” Ms. Noem said on the press call. “I’m so excited that I’ll be around to watch that finally be torn out of our history books, and that we will now be a nation proud of our mothers, proud of our babies, and proud of our nation.”