The Supreme Court of the United States returns for a new annual term this Monday (4). In the nine-month period starting today, the US Supreme Court will make decisions on allowing abortion, expanding gun ownership and religious rights in the United States.
After 18 months of remote participation because of the Covid-19 pandemic, this is the first time the court has met in person in its current configuration, with six conservative judges and three progressive judges.
The US Supreme Court’s conservative majority may change the direction of US legislation in three cases that involve issues that generate intense debate in the country:
One of the top cases on the Supreme Court’s agenda could lead to a decision that changes the country’s abortion rights. The case is a challenge to a Mississippi state law that prohibits most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Mississippi’s law, passed by the state legislature in 2018, has been challenged and is suspended until the Supreme Court hears the arguments, in a session scheduled for December 1st. A decision is expected in the first half of next year.
Lower courts blocked the state law because it would be inconsistent with rulings that allow US states to regulate, but not prohibit, abortion before 24 weeks’ gestation.
The Mississippi State Attorney General will ask the Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 decision called Roe v. Wade, who legalized abortion on American soil.
The expectation of Republican lawmakers in states that have implemented laws similar to Mississippi’s – and conservative sectors of the country – is that the Supreme Court, now with a conservative majority, will overturn or modify the 1973 decision.
In another case that could have major repercussions in the US, judges will decide on the expansion of rights to carry firearms in the country.
The court recognizes the fundamental right of citizens to possess weapons for personal protection under the Second Constitutional Amendment, but the extent of that right to carry weapons outside the home has not yet been decided.
On Nov. 3, the Supreme Court will review a New York state regulation that allows citizens to obtain permission to carry a concealed weapon only if they can demonstrate that they need the weapon for self-defense. Eight other US states have similar restrictions on carrying a firearm in public; in the rest of the country, citizens are allowed to take to the streets with their weapons.
Another case will give the Court the opportunity to rule on religious rights in the area of public education. The state of Maine excludes religious schools from its program to support families living in cities that do not have public schools. Under this program, the state reimburses students who live in areas without public schools and who study at private schools – except in religious schools.
Maine’s parents have filed a lawsuit against the exclusion of religious schools from the state’s taxpayer-funded program.
The court will then determine whether or not a state can deny a public benefit based on whether it will be used to pay for religious instruction, or whether the First Amendment to the Constitution requires equal treatment between religious and secular schools.