US Supreme Court to Return to Bench, With Cases on Abortion, Gun Rights to Be Heard
13:13 GMT 04.10.2021 (Updated: 17:32 GMT 24.10.2021)
A late September Gallup poll showed that public approval for the US Supreme Court has reached "a new low", with its ratings plummeting to just 40% - the worst result for SCOTUS since 2001 when the poll was first conducted.
The Supreme Court of the United States is set to return for a new term, already dubbed a "blockbuster" by US media outlets due to how pressing the forthcoming hot button hearings appear to be, as they include cases on abortion rights, gun rights, and the death penalty.
The court, now with a conservative-leaning majority, will return to the bench on Monday. The new term is expected to produce landmark decisions regarding the Mississippi abortion case that seeks to potentially reconsider Roe v. Wade - the 1973 decision that guaranteed the constitutional right to abortion. The arguments will begin on 1 December.
One of the central issues of the gun rights debate is also to be taken up by the Supreme Court in the new term, with the justices set to hear a challenge to a New York state law that only allows residents to carry concealed handguns
in case they have special needs, not for general self-defence.
Besides this, the court will be hearing cases related to the death penalty, including arguments considering the cancellation of the death sentence for Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev who participated in the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.
Yet, the main focus of media attention is on the abortion rights case, especially in light of the Mississippi law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and even stricter Texas legislation banning almost all abortions in the state by outlawing them in case they are sought after the sixth week of pregnancy.
Landmark Decisions to Come?
The recent restrictive legislative initiatives have escalated the already heated squabbles between those fighting for abortion rights and body autonomy and their critics who argue that these issues do not justify ending the lives of unborn children.
As SCOTUS is set to potentially overturn Roe v. Wade, crowds of protesters headed to the court's steps, chanting slogans in favour of abortion rights like "My body, my choice", "Mind your own uterus", and others.
The Texas abortion law, the so-called Heartbeat Act, was challenged in the Supreme Court earlier, but the justices failed to take action, sparking even more concerns that Roe v. Wade could actually be under threat of being overturned.
In the court briefs
, Acting Solicitor General Brian H. Fletcher, when speaking about the aftermath of overturning Roe v. Wade, insisted that it "would harm women (and their partners) who have organised intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail".
An opposite opinion was voiced by Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who told justices that Roe was "egregiously wrong" and called for the precedent to be overturned.
"The conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition", Fitch claimed.
The case that is to be heard by the Supreme Court now, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organisation, is being described as "one of the highest-profile arguments of the 2021-22 term" by SCOTUSblog, not only because the request to reconsider the decisions guaranteeing the right to abortion made in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, but also because SCOTUS rejected the request to block the Texas law.
"There are going to be people losing their minds over this case, whichever direction it goes", Carrie C. Severino, the president of the conservative group Judicial Crisis Network, told The New York Times about the case.
The gun-rights case is also set to make waves since many refer to the issues of abortion rights and gun rights as the two "most explosive" issues in American politics. After hearing New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen
, the Supreme Court could make an important Second Amendment-related decision - something that it has not done in over a decade. This decision could clarify how much states can control gun ownership without breaching the US Constitution.
Supreme Court Approval Rating
The Supreme Court is set to make these important decisions against the backdrop of an apparent crisis of approval, according to a Gallup poll
conducted in late September. SCOTUS' approval rating is at a historic low, with only 40% of respondents content with how the justices are doing their jobs.
This is the worst result since 2001 when the poll was conducted for the first time. Now, a high of 37% say the court is too conservative, while another 20% assert, on the contrary, that it is too liberal.
The poll was conducted shortly after the Supreme Court decided not to block the Heartbeat Act