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With Roe v. Wade on the line, Supreme Court sets stage in key case

The Supreme Court has effectively ended Roe v. Wade protections in Texas. The stage is now set for the justices do the same thing nationwide.

Five conservative members of the Supreme Court recently gave the green light to Texas' odious anti-abortion law, effectively ending Roe v. Wade protections in the nation's second largest state. For proponents of reproductive rights, it was a disastrous setback.

But there's another case looming, and it's likely to prove even more consequential. CNBC reported today:

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Dec. 1 in a case that threatens to overturn the decades-old abortion protections established under Roe v. Wade. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, takes aim at the Supreme Court precedent barring states from banning abortions prior to a fetus becoming viable, or capable of living outside the womb.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, several Republican-led state governments started advancing new abortion bans after Donald Trump and GOP senators rushed Justice Amy Coney Barrett onto the Supreme Court last fall. But Mississippi Republicans took related steps even earlier, approving the "Gestational Age Act" in 2018, banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

What followed was predictable. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit, challenging the constitutionality of the state measure; a district court agreed and struck down Mississippi's policy; and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision.

Then the U.S. Supreme Court, which often waits to take up cases like these until there are divisions among the circuits, announced it would hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, creating the first key showdown on reproductive rights since conservatives gained a dominant, six-member majority on the nine-member Supreme Court.

And now we know to expect oral arguments on Dec. 1, ahead of a likely ruling in June 2022.

The lobbying campaign, to the extent that it's effective, is likely to be ferocious. Last month, 228 congressional Republicans asked the high court to use the Mississippi case to overturn Roe — including some GOP lawmakers who assured voters last fall that reproductive rights are not in jeopardy — as did 12 sitting Republican governors.

On the other hand, NBC News reported this morning that nearly 900 state legislators from 45 states asked the justices this morning to leave the 1973 precedent intact.

There's also an electoral context to all of this. We're faced with the very real possibility of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade — in part or in its entirety — just in time for the 2022 midterm elections, which will also coincide with a major new Second Amendment ruling.

For roughly a half-century, Republican politicians took advantage of a convenient political dynamic: GOP officials and candidates could rail against abortion rights, confident in the knowledge that Roe v. Wade was probably safe, and the status quo, which most voters were satisfied with, would remain intact for the foreseeable future.

What happens if/when Republicans become the dog that catches the car? In an election year?