Roe v. Wade nearly fell 30 years ago. Can it survive again?

We’ve been here before, with the fate of abortion rights throughout the United States in doubt and awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court.

Nearly 30 years ago, the court came within a vote of throwing out the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion throughout the United States and returning the ability to restrict if not ban abortion to the states.

It might happen this time, after arguments Wednesday during which conservative justices suggested support for overruling Roe. The landmark decision could also emerge significantly diminished but not dead when the court decides what to do with Mississippi’s 15-week ban on abortions, probably in late June.

Under Chief Justice John Roberts the court has issued several rulings over the years that resolved important cases in surprising ways. Roberts’ handiwork produced the opinion that saved the Affordable Care Act in 2012 by a single vote.

The court has changed even during Roberts’ tenure, as a result of three appointees of former President Donald Trump who were vetted by an active and exacting conservative legal movement.

Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett had long conservative records as judges — or in Barrett’s case, as an academic before becoming a judge. Both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh worked in the administration of George W. Bush.

And it’s not just abortion. The justices seem likely to expand gun rights and religious freedom before the term ends, and the future of affirmative action in college admissions also is teed up for the court’s consideration sometime in the next year.

The Roe and Casey courts had justices that are “night and day away from the judicial philosophies and approaches of the current court,” said Notre Dame law professor Sherif Girgis.

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