The Supreme Court this week made the unusual decision to hear an abortion case out of Mississippi that the state’s lower courts ruled was plainly unconstitutional under the landmark Roe v. Wade—an indication that the nation’s highest court “has something to say about abortion,” says Aziza Ahmed, a law professor at Northeastern University whose scholarship includes abortion and reproductive health.
“Normally we see the Supreme Court take cases where there’s a circuit split: One circuit has ruled something is constitutional and another has ruled that it’s unconstitutional,” Ahmed says. “They took this case without any circuit split, which indicates that they may be looking to change something about abortion access in this country.”
At least four of the nine Supreme Court justices must agree to grant a case a Petition for Certiorari—a legal phrase for a motion from an attorney arguing that a lower court has incorrectly decided a question of law—in order for the court to hear a case.
The case in question, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, concerns a Mississippi law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which is about two months earlier than Roe and other court decisions currently allow.