Speed Reads

the fate of roe v. wade

Biden reaffirms support for Roe v. Wade: 'I think it's the rational position to take'

President Biden on Wednesday once again declared his support for Roe v. Wade, after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the most serious challenge to the landmark abortion rights decision in decades. 

"I support Roe v. Wade," Biden told reporters, noting he did not watch any of the day's proceedings related to the Mississippi abortion law, which bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. "I think it's the rational position to take and I continue to support it."

Rather alarmingly for abortion rights advocates, however, the president's words may not mean much. The court on Wednesday appeared willing to uphold the Mississippi law, NBC News reports, which would "represent a dramatic break from 50 years of rulings" that blocked states from banning abortion before 24 weeks, generally considered to be the age of fetal viability.

The court's three liberal justices — Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan — warned "that the court would appear to be a political body if it tossed out abortion rulings that the country has relied on for decades," writes NBC News. Meanwhile, conservative justices such as Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch "openly suggested that the current viability line under Roe is arbitrary and can be moved, which would effectively overturn the high court precedent," writes HuffPost. Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, alongside Chief Justice John Roberts, were reportedly less vocal than that but also seemed open to "tinkering" with gestational limits. 

Even if the Mississippi law is upheld, however, it is unclear "whether that would mean overruling Roe v. Wade's finding that women have a fundamental right to end their pregnancies," writes The Washington Post. Kavanaugh, for his part, gave a list of prominent cases in which the court overturned precedent (though oral arguments can at times be misleading, and intended to play devil's advocate).