tv Stephanie Ruhle Reports MSNBC December 1, 2021 6:00am-7:00am PST
rule this hour, and this morning the battle over abortion rights in this country is reaching the highest court. in one hour from right now, the supreme court will hear arguments in a case that directly challenges roe versus wade, and nearly 50 year of precedence. it is a blockbuster case. it's coming from mississippi where the only abortion clinic left there is challenging a law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with only rare exceptions for medical emergencies or cases of severe fetal abnormality. here's the deal, mississippi wants the court to overturn two historic decisions, which say women have a constitutional right to abortion, the point of survival outside the womb generally thought to be around 24 weeks. the case will be decided by a court seen as more sympathetic with the 6-3 conserve tir , president trump explicitly said he wanted them to overturn roe.
who's arguing in front of the court today? three lawyers, one representing mississippi, one representing that last abortion clinic left there, and a third representing the biden administration, which wants to keep legal abortion intact. and listen, this is the single most important legal showtown showtown in three decades. it's the case opponents of abortion have been waiting for. just a reminder, our nbc news poll from august found a slim but clear majority of u.s. adults think abortion should be legal most of the time, if the justices side with mississippi, that is in jeopardy. we have special coverage here this hour and next, and for it i want to bring in justice correspondent pete williams, ken dilanian is live not too far from where i am outside the supreme court, barbara mcquade is a former attorney and msnbc legal analyst and yasmin vossoughian is also outside the court. ken, let me start with you. these arguments are about an hour away. we're going to get to hear them. talk about what we can expect
here. >> the arguments are scheduled to last an hour, but i'm told we can expect them to go longer than that, perhaps 90 minutes. and as you laid out very well. this is really going to the heart of the question of whether the constitution enshrines the right to abortion. initially, mississippi told the court that it could uphold this law without overturning roe v. wade, but then it sort of decided to shoot from the moon and later told the supreme court nothing in constitutional tax structure, history, or tradition supports a right to abortion. and so essentially mississippi is asking the court to overturn, as you said 50 years of precedent, roe v. wade. the right to abortion. that's what's at stake here. >> pete, talk about the potential outcomes here, right? because there seem to be a few, either, you know, overturn roe, don't overturn roe, or maybe possibly figure out some kind of way to thread the needle where the justices rule in favor of mississippi but don't overturn roe altogether.
it seems like that's the hardest option. >> remember that what this case is about is whether or not the mississippi law is constitutional. it's certainly at odds with past supreme court precedent, so you can't fit that square peg into that round hole. what are the possibilities? one is that the court does what mississippi does and says, yep, we've got it wrong. for 50 years there is no constitutional right to abortion. i think that's among the least likely outcomes here. the other least likely outcome is that they completely strike down the mississippi law and completely uphold their past precedents. more likely outcomes with among these. these are one of the fallbacks that mississippi suggests to the court. don't explicitly strike down roe but uphold the mississippi law and say that the state can ban abortion before the age of viability, or say that viability now is at a younger age than it was when roe was decided 50 years ago. that's one possible and, frankly, i think likely outcome that the court says a state can
ban abortion after 15 weeks under the theory that 90% of women have abortions before then, and the mississippi clinic only does them up to 16 weeks. that was certainly an outcome women's groups would not like. what's to say the next state comes along and says how about after 12 weeks or 9 or texas at 6. >> so pete, i want to come back to you for a second. you've laid out what i think these potential avenues are for the court. yasmin, as pete talked about hear, you have groups on both sides of the abortion debate that have come out here. i was out here 7:30 this morning, and i saw the demonstrators coming in already. i know you're right in the thick of it, and you've been talking to folks here, right? >> reporter: yeah, i am in the thick of it, hallie. this is one of the most divisive issue in this country, despite the fact that a majority of americans believe women should have access to abortion services in this country.
it's happening here on the ground in front of the supreme court. you're just a little ways away from me. if you can switch around this way, and i just want hallie and the viewers to be able to see. there's a dividing line, hallie, between folks that are protesting in favor of abortion rights and then folks that are protesting against abortion rights. literally, there's a barrier between them with two separate rallies going on. i have to close one ear to hear what's happening on this side and then open up the other ear to hear what's happening on the other side, and the argument is across the board. you're talking a listen to pete, right? they talk about the viability standard. the viability standard is 24 weeksment many of the arguments here is that the viability standard should be moved up because science has changed over the last 40 plus years. of course it's all playing out in front of the supreme court as we speak. they're going to be hear all day. they're going to be at these rallies all day waiting to hear
these arguments play out and a decision to come down from the supreme court hopefully in the spring. >> barbara, i'll get to you in one second. pete, as yasmin is talking about these arguments playing out, what are you going to be listening for as we hear from the justices? are there certain signals or questions that are going to pique your interest more than others. >> i think the question is who's the fifth vote. remember, it takes four votes to grant a case. the mississippi law was declared unenforceable by the fifth circuit court of appeals which ruled that supreme court precedent wouldn't allow this law to stand. you have to assume there are tissue you have to know that there are four justices who agreed to hear this case. that suggests four justices who think the mississippi law should stand. who's that fifth justice? who might be the fifth vote? is it amy coney barrett? is it brett kavanaugh, the chief justice john roberts? so we sort of know where the three most conservative justices are. we sort of know where the three
most liberal justices are, but what about those justices potentially in the middle who could be a potential fifth vote, and what is their interest? so that's what we'll be listening for. >> barbara, we're going to talk more about the arguments in a second. i think what we're looking at at the moment is sort of setting the stakes for what we expect to come, right? the arguments happening today likely some kind of decision to come down when the court ends its term next year, and then depending on how this rules, there are these trigger laws that are in place all across the country in more conservative states, essentially ready to have those dominos fall if, in fact, the court does rule for mississippi in this instance. can you talk through the impact of that? >> in 12 states immediately upon a decision if this were to overrule roe versus wade, abortion would immediately become illegal in those 12 states. we could also expect in other
states with republican legislatures, we would see copycat legislation that also bans abortion in those states. certain ly there will be some states that preserve the right to an abortion, but women who live in other states will have to travel to those states to get an portion. those who have the means to do so will have that burden, but will be able to get an portion. where this really falls is on women who do not have the means to do that, women of color, women of lower income, they're not going to have that opportunity, and so i worry that we return to that pre-1973 world where we see back alley abortions being performed. >> mississippi's attorney general who is leading the charge for this abortion law, one of the folks doing that, talked about why she thinks it's necessary on fox news. i want to play some of that. >> the reality is this is a rule of law question. it's time to return it to the states because abortion policy making should rest with the elected legislators and elected
governors to make those decisions on behalf of the people. that's what they're elected to do. that's the will of the people. >> from a legal perspective, is that a strong argument? >> no, not at all. the constitution is there to serve as a backstop to protect us from the tyranny of the majority. in fact, the ninth amendment to the constitution recognizes unenumerated rights. there's nothing in the text that says there's a right to an abortion, no, but the supreme court has found unenumerated rights, the right to vote, the right to travel, the right to the presumption of innocence and the right to an abortion. it comes out of the due process clause in the 14th amendment. if roe versus wade falls so does the reasoning and the potential impact could be on same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and gay sex. all of those things are protected by the same argument. if this one falls, we could see all of those dominos fall as well. >> there's another interesting argument that's being made by mississippi here that is essentially -- i've seen it shorthanded like the women can
have it all argument. the idea that over the past several decades, the laws and the norms in society and legally have changed so that women can have full careers and full family lives. this is an argument that mississippi is making. can you talk about that and its novelty, if you will, as it relates to this case? >> well, i'd say that turns on its head the argument that a number of people are making that defend the roe versus wade and the decision that followed on from roe, and that is what the lawyers call stare decisis. the law should tend to be settled, that people have come to expect this and come to plan their lives around this. remember that something like one out of every four women in america at some point in their lives will choose to end a pregnancy. so roe v. wade and casey, the law has really become sort of part of the fabric of life, and that's one of the things the court will have to deal with here if it does decide to overturn roe, it's going against
something that is clearly settled, or at least that many people have come to depend on. the legal standard may not be settled, but the idea that abortion should be legal seems to be largely settled. >> we're going to talk to one of the leaders of the abortion rights movement involved in this case. i know you've been talking to people, too, on the other side of the issue. as you've been out there in front of the court covering these demonstrations. tell us more about that. >> so we've been talking about the viability standard, one of the arguments, hallie that's going to be made by the state of mississippi. the viability standard in roe v. wade is around 24 weeks, right? and i pressed the head of susan b. anthony, which is an antiabortion rights group that has been lobbying for that for the last 30 plus years or so about viability. and we well know the statistics here. it is rarely a fetus survives before 24 weeks. i asked her about that, especially with this mississippi case, which is arguing to a
certain extent now to stop abortions at 15 weeks because of the viability standard. they believe the bar has now subsequently moved. here's what she had to say about that. >> we believe that the viability standard and not just we, but most people believe the viability standard doesn't make any sense in terms of whether a baby yet to be born lives or dies. so the viability around roe versus wade was at about like 28 weeks, and so for every decade it's changed about a week. somewhere around like 22, 23, somewhere around there. so again, 15 weeks is a conscious decision to place it before viability so that we point to the humanity of the unborn child and whether or not it can live outside the womb on the table right after it's born or not. >> and i tell you, hallie, one of the arguments that's being made at the rally behind me that is arguing on behalf of antiabortion protesters here, they're talking about and naming children that are born before 24
weeks. i want to tack onto that something else that marjorie had to say talking about what's going to happen in the supreme court, what will ultimately happen, what decision will be made. as pete laid out some of the circumstances that could come of this, some of the decisions, the various discussions that could come of this could be the ultimate overturn of roe v. wade, and if, in fact, she believes that's what should happen. here's what she had to say about that. >> that is what has been guaranteed for almost 50 years because democracy has not been allowed to help resolve this problem with people who disagree. consensus and allowing consensus to build is how this gets resolved, and the only way that happens is that roe is overturned. >> reporter: i'll finish off with this. i spoke to the director of jackson women's health on the otherwise of the supreme court case who said these individuals, people like marjorie, they don't have access. they don't talk to the women who are affected mostly in the state
of mississippi now by abortions, people seeking out abortion services in their state. the decisions they're making, how difficult the decisions are, and who a supreme court decision like this one will ultimately affect, right, black and brown women in the state of mississippi. >> before we go to our next guest, pete i want to give you the final word here. you've been covering the supreme court for years. can you put into context for us how significant this moment is, big picture? >> certainly it's the biggest abortion case in 30 years, and remember, the court went through the same thing in deciding a case from pennsylvania about 30 years ago when the same arguments were being made that there is no constitutional right to abortion, and it appear at the time the case was argued that maybe the court was going to agree with that, but it ultimately upheld roe. so one of the arguments that mississippi is making here is, you know, we've been through this before. we've seen this movie. things should not come out differently just because the membership of the court has changed. so that's on one side. the other side is as mississippi
says, does it make a difference that there have been medical advancements and that the age of viability has been moved up, so i think that's the larger context here. certainly the biggest challenge to abortion in 30 years, and one of the things that mississippi says is as long as roe is on the books, this issue will remain unsettled. this issue will remain divisive, and that's why the supreme court should strike down roe. >> pete williams, thank you, ken dilanian, barbara mcquade, yasmin vossoughian, thank you all as well. we're going to be listening live to those arguments when they happen in just about 50, 45 minutes from now. i want to bring in a guest that's with me in front of the supreme court, the president and ceo for the center of reproductive rights, nancy, thank you for walking over and being with us this morning. >> absolutely. >> we'll get into legal piece of it here. give me your big picture. this, i know, has been the work of your career. what are the stakes in your
view? >> the stakes are huge. i mean this is actually the fourth the time the center has been arguing in the last six years. every case is because the state has been in open defiance of the protections under the constitution by roe versus wade. so we are back hear again today, i mean, four times is too many, but we are here. we are ready. we will be making the case to the court that there's only one outcome here consistent with their precedence, the rule of law, gender equality, and the fundamental literality to make the important decisions about our health, lives and future. >> i don't know if you had the opportunity to listen to one of our reporters who's been talking to antiabortion advocates and the issue of viability, and the idea of where does viability begin. how are you preparing to make that argument to the court against those groups? >> well, the court has been clear about one thing in the last 49 years since roe, and that is that the viability line
is the point at which, you know, before then the ultimate decision has to be for the woman. and all of the medical and family circumstances are for her ultimately to decide. they've said that, you know, states can make restrictions that are reasonable, but they can't ultimately take the decision away, and that is the line that makes this secure. if they get rid of the viability line, then we're going to sea a crumbling across the nation, and if roe falls, there's no way to uphold the mississippi law without reversing roe versus wade. half the states in the united states are going to ban abortion. >> we'll talk more about that because, as we mentioned, you represent the last remaining clinic that performs abortions in mississippi, but this is certainly not a mississippi only issue. this isn't something that just affects women in mississippi. >> absolutely not. what the court will decide is whether or not the standard is going to hold for people across the nation. probably about half the states would recriminalize abortion. you would have states trying to do the kind of thing that texas has done ask that we were
fighting last month in the supreme court about. you still can't get an abortion in texas after six weeks. and you're going to see people have to travel multiple state lines, and many people don't have the means to do that. not just the financial means, the time off from work, the care for their children, and you know, half of the people having abortions in the united states today do live below the federal poverty line. so this is really an issue of fundamental fairness, economic equality as well as gender equality. >> a two-part question. you mentioned, for example, the texas decision that we're still waiting on from the supreme court. any decision on this case is not likely to come until probably june. we can't say for sure, but that is what we imagined. there's months in between now and then. what are you doing? what is the center for reproductive rights doing to help women in that interim period, and how are you preparing in case what you see as the worst-case scenario happening, roe falls after this decision comes down moving forward. >> we're right now fighting hard
in the texas case, and waiting for that decision, and the three dozen other cases we're litigating across the country. there is a vibrant movement in the united states. there's people in the court today. there's people online listening across the country. 70% of the american population wants abortion to be legal. so mobilizing that support across the nation, making sure, you know, congress could fix this problem right now. the women's health protection act would address the ban we're looking at here, would address the situation in texas. the house is passed. >> the house has already taken that up. the president supports it strongly. we're also going to be mobilizing so people understand that congress can take action and they should be asking congress to take action, even as we're fighting in the courts, this can be protected by congress. >> what's a point that you think has been under covered or under talked about as it relates to what's happening at the court today. >> well, i think that's under talked about is the right to abortion protected in roe is part of a whole panoply of
rights that protect our individual decisions. you can't just reverse roe without impacting the decisions on lgbtq equality and other decisions about how we protect our lives and health and families. so you know, roe is very much the fabric of a whole set of constitutional decisions about who we marry, do we have children. it's important to all of us. one of the most important things in the united states in a free country is making these important personal decisions if for ourselves. >> what are you going to be listening for when we do listen to these arguments when we hear this unfold starting in just about 45 minutes here. signals from justice amy coney barrett, justice brett kavanaugh, what are you going to be waiting for? >> it's very hard to read tea leaves, we certainly will be looking for the justices to be really pressing mississippi hard on why there should be a reversal of a 49-year precedent. what is there? there's nothing different today than back when they decided 30
years ago in planned parenthood versus casey that roe is the law of the land. it's a protection of important rights for women, for individuals about their life, and nothing's changed since then. and we'll be looking for the court's questioning along those lines. >> thank you so much for being with us here this morning. thank you. we have a whole lot more on the supreme court and that mississippi abortion case coming up this hour including a closer look at the legacy of roe versus wade. that's coming up in just a bit. we're also covering other headlines, including potential new travel rules, a growing push for booster shots and way more testing. we're looking at how the u.s. is getting ready for the official arrival of the omicron covid variant. and a michigan community grieving after three teenagers were shot and killed at school. we're live with the latest on that investigation next. that investigation next.
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we are back with our special coverage live outside the supreme court of the united states. you are looking at the scene that is unfolding just about 100 yards or so behind me. demonstrators on both sides of the abortion debate outside of court ahead of those oral arguments that will happen in just about the 35 minutes from now. set to begin, you will hear them live right here on msnbc as our special coverage continues. we're going to come back to that later on in this show. these covid developments with the omicron development
spreading to more countries, that includes the continent of south america. here at home, a white house official tells nbc news the biden administration is considering stricter testing requirements for people who want to travel overseas. and at the same time top federal health officials are expanding a surveillance program at some of the country's biggest airports to try and detect and then contain any cases of that omicron variant coming into the u.s. in other news, too, this fda advisory panel has voted to recommend an experimental antiviral pill by merck to treat covid for emergency use authorization. and then this headline, basketball's biggest name, lebron james no clear return date after he entered the nba's health and safety protocols. it's not clear whether james tested positive for covid or whether his result was inconclusive. i want to bring in sam brock who's covering the latest on all of this. let me start with what i think is the headline catching the most potential this morning, the potential for those stricter testing requirements for international travel, right? what's coming down the pike?
>> reporter: it's pretty clear, the white house is floating a couple of different ideas. the most likely scenario according to our reporting is more stringent testing international travel into the united states. also getting another test three to five days after you're here in the country. that does seem likely. there's also reports going on right now of a possible seven-day self-quarantine. there are indications at this point it's not being considered. a lot of this does seem to be fluid. with respect to the omicron variant, there has not been a single detected case so far, hallie in the united states. as you mentioned a second ago, brazil had its first instance. southern africa, europe, globally all over the world, 20 or so countries have seen the omicron variant. it stands to reason. scientists say it's almost certain to pop up in the united states as well. enhanced screening going on in several airports from new york and new jersey to atlanta and
also san francisco. they are targeting international passengers. this all comes with the context that they are looking right now at about 80,000 samples every single week. they have to sequence, scientists do, the virus in its entirety and introduce that to blood of immunized people to see how the antibodies react. this is a process that can take weeks. the united states right now is looking at more samples than any other country in the world. >> sam brock live for us there with that news. thank you very much for being with us. from miami to michigan. three students were killed and eight other people hurt, some of them seriously. the suspected shooter is a sophomore, a 15-year-old classmate. he is in custody this morning. i want to get to megan fitzgerald live at that school in oxford. do we have any update from pris police yet about the victims first or the shooter? >> reporter: what we know right now is at least two victims are in critical condition.
one of them is fighting for their life. right now investigators tell us this 15-year-old suspect is not cooperating with this investigation but prosecutors say, look, we are ready to act quickly even bringing charges as early as today. overnight a michigan community in mourning coming together to remember three teenagers shot and killed in an attack on a school in suburban detroit. a 15-year-old student who has not been publicly identified suspected of opening fire on his classmates at oxford high school. >> our teachers tell us to get down, hide, barricade the doors. >> reporter: authorities releasing the identities of the three victims ranging in age from 14 to 17 years old. madisyn baldwin was a senior, set to graduate, and 14-year-old hana st. juliana also died. new videos show students barricading themselves in a classroom as someone in the hallway claiming to have a badge tries to enter. >> sheriff's office.
safe to come out. >> we're not willing to take that risk right now. >> i can't hear you. >> we're not taking that risk right now. >> open the door and look at my badge, bro. >> yeah, bro. >> he said bro. >> he said bro. red flag. >> the students who believe it's the shooter making a desperate escape out of the window. the suspected gunman described by police as a 15-year-old sophomore armed with a semiautomatic pistol firing at least a dozen rounds. authorities say they've received more than 100911 calls and were able to apprehend the shooter with seven rounds left in his gun, resz than five minutes after the first emergency call. >> that again, i believe interrupted what potentially could have been seven more victims. >> investigators say the gun was purchased by the boy's father days ago on black friday and the teen has posted photos practicing with it.
late last night authorities addressed rumors that they missed warning signs that there would be a potential shooting at oxford high school, but authorities say that that is false and they never received any reports. >> megan fitzgerald live for us there in oxford. thank you for that. appreciate it. tonight the house select committee investigating the january 6th attack at the capitol will meet for its first contempt vote on whether to cite former trump doj official jeffrey clark for criminal contempt of congress. he's the one who supported the former president's attempts to overturn his election defeat. he's refused to answer questions from the committee, although did appear for a deposition. he's been citing those claims of executive privilege. i want to bring in nbc news capitol hill correspondent, ali vitali, and yamiche alcindor.
ali, let me start with you. it seems like there's very little suspense about this committee vote tonight, fair? >> fair. we know how this is going to go, and it's actually going to look a lot like what we saw when this committee voted on the contempt referral for steve bannon. this will be the second referral they've voted on and the second person they're looking to make an example of of what can happen if you don't comply with their congressional subpoena. i'm standing in the hallway here, if any of the members of the january 6th committee come by, i want to ask them about what happens going forward. what this does is, yes gives some teeth behind the investigation, but it also doesn't get the committee the information that they want and need from these people who aren't complying. we know that steve bannon is further along in this contempt process but we also know that he's probably not going to comply even though he's still facing fines and the potential for jail time. with clark it could be something similar. it also draws the process out further.
this committee wants to move as quickly as they possibly can, and legal proceedings are anything but quick. >> that's a good point. there's also the issue of mark meadows, the former chief of staff of donald trump who's said to be cooperating with the committee. there's real question marks about what we know about his cooperation, right? >> yeah, exactly. there's a fair amount of skepticism about if he's actually complying or if this is a mechanism to buy some time. we know that the committee said that he's already provided documents. we don't know the nature of those documents. he was the chief of staff in the white house on january 6th and in the days and weeks preceding that, he was privy to a lot of conversations around messaging, who the former president was meeting with, who he was talking to in those days and hours that were critical during the insurrection. that's information that the committee desperately wants. meadows complying here, at least for now, takes off the table that they would go move forward
with a criminal contempt referral. it looked like it was heading there up until yesterday when we actually heard he was complying through a lawyer and expect to sit down for a deposition. you'll remember meadows skipped his deposition and that's what landed him in this position. we heard, for example, from adam schiff this morning, one of the members of the committee who said he's skeptical given meadows' background but if he is complying they're willing to hold off on contempt. it's still very much on the table if this thing ends up falling apart. >> news that has developed this morning related to him. he's on this book tour, right? he's got this new memoir coming up. meadows writes that donald trump tested positive for covid days before his first debate with joe biden. meadows goes on to say the former president got a negative result from a different test after the positive. i should point out as we've been on the air donald trump has put out a statement on this, denying that he had covid prior to or
during the first debate. the language of his statement is interesting. i'm trying to pull up the specific language. he says the story of me having covid prior to or during the first debate is fake news. tests reveal that i did not have covid prior to the debate. we were there, you know, covering the white house when this was happening, and there was wide speculation and many questions about when donald trump had been tested before that first debate. we know he got covid and was treated for it after that. i have not seen a copy of the book. i wonder what you make of this as somebody who has covered the ins and outs of this. >> it's an incredible sort of revelation that mark meadows is putting out there in this book that was obtained by the forward guardian. i was talking to some sources this morning, and there was some rumors that possibly former president trump knew that he was positive for covid before that debate, but did not want to sort of come off as being weak. that was during the time where he was still down playing the virus, sort of saying it might
have been a hoax and it was going to disappear. there was this really -- this feeling that he might have actually wanted to down lay his own status. it is striking that mark meadows, someone who has still been loyal to president trump, he is now possibly coming into sort of contrast and conflict with the former president. it's not surprising that president trump is now saying that's not true, i was not positive. but let's also remember this was the same president who sort of down played how sick he got. he was needing to be on oxygen. there was a real point where he was very scared about whether or not he would be able to make it. he never revealed that. we didn't learn any of that until after he was out of office. we didn't learn he was vaccinated until after he was out of office. it's not surprising this news, but it is shocking, if a positive test happened and he still got on the debate stage. >> thank you so much for that. we want to get back to that breaking news happening at the supreme court this morning.
we're sitting in front of it. you can probably see those demonstrators behind me. we are in this live special coverage now today ahead of those oral arguments in a key mississippi case. the justices are going to hear those arguments from attorneys about the law in that state that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. it directly challenges roe versus wade, which as you know has guaranteed women the right to a safe abortion for nearly half a century. we're going to bring you those arguments live once they start. it's also important to take a step back and talk about how we got here. in january 1973 the supreme court ruled 7-2 that the constitution protects a pregnant woman's right to an abortion without government restriction. jane roe, a pseudonym for norma mckorvey, a 22-year-old woman who was not married, dealing with drug addiction and poverty. she filed suit against henry wade challenging the texas law that prevented her from getting an abortion. the man who literally wrote the
book on this, joshua prayger, thank you very much for being on the show. good morning to you. >> good morning, thanks for having me. >> legal abortion has been the law of the land for 48 years now and this is one of the most significant cases. it is the most significant case to come before the court in 30 years. can you put this into context for us based on your long study of this issue? >> sure, you know, when roe was decided in 1973, it gave the pro-life movement a new core objective, and that was overturning roe. i think today there are two real key points to keep in mind. the first is that as you just noted, we've been here before, 30 years ago in the case of planned parenthood v. casey, there was resignation on the part of the pro-choice movement. everyone sort of thought that roe was doomed. that's because there had just been two appointments by president bush, justice thomas and justice suitor. justice suitor was not only the
fifth vote to do in roe, but he actually engineered the rescue of roe, and what then happened over the last 30 years there was sort of a gop rallying cry, no more suitors. there have been many years of refined vetting, partisan vetting of potential justices. the federalist society and other organizations that help make that happen. and so i think today the first key point to keep in mind is to think about the three sort of trump appointments and are they other potential suitors. i think there's widespread belief that justice gorsuch and barrett are not. but perhaps justice kavanaugh is not. he has written about the importance of stare decisis. that is the legal precedent, and he's also spoken about the importance of the reputation of the court, much like chief justice roberts has. so it will be important to sort of pay attention to what they
say. and the other sort of important thing to keep in mind is that, yes, over these 50 years since roe was decided, there have been a lot of pro-life successes. the hyde amendment said that medicaid could not be used to sort of provide for portions. the 1989 case of webster it away with public resources. there was a case in 2007, gonzalez v. carhart which banned a late term abortion procedure and there have been endless regulations that have circumscribed roe, consent, et cetera. but always the key essential holding of roe has remained intact, and that of course is viability. the idea that abortion e needs to remain legal until the point late in the second trimester when the fetus can survive outside the womb. and so the pro-life wanted dobbs to go before the supreme court because it goes right to the
heart of roe, it goes to viability. it is the perfect vehicle to overturn roe. >> we talked about norma mccorvey who personified, of course the abortion debate. the plaintiff in roe who became an antiabortion activist. she says she was paid by antiabortion groups. she gave birth, of course, to that baby that she it not want and you interviewed baby roe earlier this year. what should we know about her? >> yeah, one thing just to mention that death bed confession was not true. it is 100% true that norma knew if she became pro-life she would be paid to give speeches just like she it on the pro-choice side, but she was not paid to convert. what's important about norma is that in many ways she was the perfect plaintiff for such a case because she represented the majoritarian middle ground here in america. yes, she famously switched side, went from pro-choice to pro-life. she did actually have an
opinion. she said in her very first interview days after roe that she believed abortion ought to be legal right through the first trimester of pregnancy and not beyond that, and she repeated that as you mentioned, i was with her at the end of her life. she repeated that at the end of her life. she actually did have an opinion on this. if, of course, the supreme court does away with the viability threshold, it isn't then that the law of the land goes from viability to 15 weeks as mississippi has it but rather all previability bans are potentially okay, and so abortion can be banned going right back to the point of conception. >> joshua prager, i so appreciate you being with us and giving us your expertise this morning during our special coverage. thank you. we're going to have a lot more on the supreme court argument over mississippi's abortion law and the future of roe versus wade as we are live here outside court. my colleague jose diaz-balart is
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at the top of the hour, the u.s. supreme court will be hearing arguments in the most important abortion rights case in decades. the outcome could have a profound impact on reproductive rights in the country. we have reporters, experts and legal analysts here to help us understand what's happening, what we can expect to see and the potential impact of this case. and we're going to do something rare and extraordinary. we're going to take you inside the courtroom. the arguments will be audio only. the supreme court does not allow television cameras. dobbs versus jackson women's health centers on a mississippi law that bans almost all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. abortion opponents hope that justices will use this case as an opportunity to undermine or even overrule two previous
decisions, the landmark roe versus wade decision in 1973 which said states cannot restrict abortion before a point a fetus can survive outside the womb, which is usually around 22 to 24 weeks, and planned parenthood versus casey in 1992, which said states could impose limited restrictions as long as those restrictions do not impose a, quote, undue burden on a woman's right to abortion. protesters on both sides of the issue are making their voices heard outside the supreme court, and that's where we begin this morning. joining me now nbc news correspondent ken dilanian and msnbc anchor yasmin vossoughian. good morning, ken. what's the mood outside the supreme court right now? >> reporter: good morning, jose. it's a raucous atmosphere here with activists on both sides giving speeches through mega phones and microphones trying to out shout one another. the implications of this case
really could not be larger, jose. this is the biggest showdown over abortion rights in 30 years, and it's possible that roe v. wade could be overturned as a result of this. it's also possible it could be upheld even as the mississippi law is upheld. but either of those outcomes would be a political earthquake. if roe v. wade is overturned, experts expect that most of red state america would outlaw abortion, and the political repercussions of that could be significant, jose. recent nbc polling shows that 54% of americans believe abortion should be legal in most cases. americans remember that we are here today because of politics, because a republican engineered the nomination of two conservative justices when it could have been possible that less conservative justices under a different scenario could have been appointed here. and as a result this court is hearing for the first time arguments over restrictions on abortion and before viability. that's never happened before and it's going to happen in a few minutes, jose. >> and yasmin, you've spoken to
some of the antiabortion activists this morning. what are they telling you? >> reporter: jose, before i kind of show you the atmosphere of what's going on and we get to some of the sound from the folks that i've been speaking to this morning, i want to give viewers a warning. there's oftentimes insensitive images that are used at some of these abortion rallies. as i swing around and show you, we're going to try and make sure we don't show you those. walk with me a little bit. i want to show you what ken was talking to you about, how folks are trying to out shout one another. over here in this area, you have folks advocating for abortion rights. they've been rallying on that behalf all morning. you see signs supporting that abortion bans are racist. you see a sign back there saying that, right? let's swing around this way. then there's a barrier over here, and simultaneously, jose, you have yet another rally going on, which is antiabortion, and of course you have signs in that area supporting that argument. both of those rallies simultaneously going on, they've been shouting over each other
all morning. i've been speaking to folks on both sides, jose, all morning. two individuals specifically, kristin hawkins, the president of students for life, and i'm reading it off my phone to make sure i get it right, shannon brewer, the clinical director at jackson women's health. under roe v. wade, the viability standard we all know is 24 weeks. the argument that's going to be made by the state of mississippi is that the viability center has now shifted to 15 weeks, which is what is part of the mississippi law. i spoke to kristen about the viability center and she believes, in fact, viability is at conception. let's take a listen to what she had to say. >> right now with medical technology, a fetus is not viable, meaning it cannot survive outside of the womb at 15 weeks. at students for life and within the pro-life movement, all my friends who are here today, we would say that your viability, though, doesn't determine your worth or your value, that you
are a human being, science proves that you are a human being at the moment of conception. >> i think they're out of touch with reality with what's really going on in certain areas of the world, especially in the southern states. these people aren't coming into these these people, to see what they're dealing with every day. they're not doing that. >> reporter: listen, jose, shannon's essentially saying that a law like this will disproportionately affect communities, black and brown communities, poor communities, communities that don't necessarily even have access to health care. it's not going to be wealthy women that are not going to have access to abortion services. it's going to be the single black mother who has two young children at home who believes she's making the responsible choice. and shannon believes that a lot of folks that are advocating against abortions are out of touch with many of these communities, the communities that will be disproportionately affected by this law. so, listen, this thing is going
to be going on all day. certainly one of the most divisive issues in this country right now. >> yasmin vassoughian and ken dilanian in front of the supreme court, thank you very much. an august nbc news polls that nearly 50 years after roe v. wade was decided, more than half of americans polled say abortion should be legal. joining me now, cecile richards. she is the former president of planned parenthood federation of america, currently the co-chair of american bridge. talk to us about the gravity of this moment. the importance of this moment. >> well, this is the case that, of course, we've all been waiting for, that the supreme court should have never taken this mississippi case. this law is clearly unconstitutional. but as was said earlier, what's happened is politics have intervened. we had donald trump, who committed to only put on
justices of the supreme court that were prepared to overturn roe v. wade. he got three justices on the court. he shifted the balance, and this is their opportunity, the republican party's opportunity to finally take away a right that women have had in this country for nearly 50 years. this mississippi case, of course, as i think the anti-choice person said, what the mississippi attorney general is saying, you should overturn roe completely. that means, take away this right completely. and it's really important to understand, this is being argued with the backdrop of the texas abortion ban, which has now been in effect for almost three months. especially in the state of texas, roe does not exist. and this supreme court has done nothing, nothing to intervene and to protect that right, so the stakes could not be higher today in this argument before the supreme court. >> cecile richards, thank you very much for being with me this morning. i want to turn to our all-star
panel, neal katyal, former acting u.s. solicitor general, has argued dozens of cases in front of the u.s. supreme court. i also want to bring in maya wiley, a civil rights attorney. and joyce vance, a former u.s. attorney. lucky for me to have the opportunity to be with you on this very important day. neal, let me talk first about what we're going to be seeing and actually hearing here on msnbc this morning. when you've gone in front of the supreme court, what are the things you're looking for, early on? >> well, the first thing i try to remember is not be tremendously nervous when i'm arguing in front of the supreme court. the second is to really listen to the justice's questions. as an advocate, you come in with things you want to say, the argument is not about you. it's always about them. and it's about a magic number, five. you've got to count to five, how do you get a majority of the supreme court to agree with your position. you might want a bigger position and win more, but if you know you can't do that, you narrow
your position, trim it down to five. so here, the question is, who are the justices who might be in play, who might say, we're on the fence about the mississippi law. and as cecile richards just said, this is a court that has a project that the republican party has had for 48 years to overall roe v. wade. so there's not as much play as there has been at any point in their lifetimes. the justices are coming in with more of their ideas. >> which of those ideas are you looking for to play that part. >> i'm looking first to chief justice roberts, who was very much on the anti-choice side when he was a younger lawyer. but he's someone who has moderated over time. he's an institutionist, when it comes to the supreme court. he doesn't want the supreme court in the crosshairs. so, for example, last year, for the first time, he voted to basically uphold -- to basically say that abortion restrictions in louisiana were unconstitutional.
so he had switched over and joined with the three more liberal justices on the court. and the question is, does that vote matter now that amy coney barrett has replaced ruth bader ginsburg. and the only way it does matter is if the chief justice can pull one more moderating vote over to its side. that vote, if at all, may come from brett kavanaugh. >> what are the stakes of this case when it comes to legal precedent in the court? >> that's really the issue here. the issue is, do we continue to have a court that establishes well-established law, or do we have a results-oriented deviation from that in the area of abortion? as cecile said, the law here is clear. the supreme court should not have taken dobbs on appeal. the only reason you take a case like this is if you have a feeling that there are neal's five votes to begin to engage in change in the law. and the question here is will that change be incremental or an
abrupt reversal of roe v. wade? we're all counting votes and looking to what the justices have said on this issue in the past. but in reality, this may have less to do with abortion and more to do with the far-reaching effect of a decision to reverse course in the law here. and we heard this when the court considered the texas abortion law. they were concerned about the use of vigilante justice, the mechanism that texas is using to enforce its law, in cases beyond abortion. could this be used, for instance, for gun rights advocates? i think we'll hear some of that today, as well. if you can reverse roe v. wade, then are there other sorts of established cases that become vulnerable and what could that mean in this newly conservative court? >> maya, what are you going to be looking for? what magistrates are you going to be looking to listen to? >> roberts is very central to this. but he's central in a way that would add to what neal has said. when he agreed that the
louisiana law that was essentially going to make it so difficult for doctors to be able to provide abortions in that state, he said, look, i'm going to stick with precedent, because in texas, where half of abortion clinics were going to close if the barriers that they were putting up to doctors being able to deliver abortions was to be upheld, but roberts actually agreed with anti-abortionists in that case that it was not unduly limiting to women to eliminate half of the clinics in the state. not is he pro-choice per se or paying attention to undue burden, how realistic is it for women to actually get an abortion today. since 1982, 38% of abortion clinics have shuttered. >> in mississippi, there's one left. >> there's one left. alabama -- there's six states
that only have one clinic. and we have literally dozens of cities in this country with 50,000 people or more, where women have to travel 100 miles for an abortion. that is unduly burdensome. so the question is, how is roberts thinking about precedent, which he cares about, as neal said, he does. that's why he -- didn't agree with louisiana decision, but he went along with it, because it was consistent with the texas decision. but the balance of the court has changed. i'm looking to see, is he going to try to thread this needle in a way that claims not to be overturning roe, but yet fundamentally still guts the ability for women to in a very real-world sense be able to get access to an abortion. >> neal, just in a couple of minutes, we'll have this rare, wonderful opportunity to actually be inside the court and listen to -- no cameras allowed, microphones are. we'll be able to sit in that court and listen. tell me, pain the picture of
what it is that people are going to be hearing. >> so you'll be hearing a very rapid-fire oral argument. 35 minutes per side. there'll be three advocates total. one, the mississippi solicitor general will start the argument and have 35 minutes. then the challengers to the mississippi law and then the united states solicitor general, the top lawyer for the federal government. and they'll each have two minutes of uninterrupted time for the justices -- that they'll pause and listen. >> so that's like the opening statements, essentially? >> exactly. >> two minutes. >> that's new after covid. before, i would hope to get one line out, and normally, you wouldn't get that one line out before question, question, question. two minutes uninterrupted, then a scrum where any justice can ask a question. and you will see their questions piling on top of each other sometimes today. >> and are they -- are they kind of like -- is it like a civil discourse or is it intended to be more open-ended questions being lobbed when they come to
them? >> all of the above, i would say. >> really? >> yeah. they used to be more polite. i have to say, the court over the last few years has gotten a bit more sharp in their questioning. and even sometimes to each other, and making digs at each other. that's an unfortunate trend. but i think for the most part, you'll hear a respectful discussion of the issues between the advocates and the court. maybe the most important thing to think about is when the justices are asking a question, they're not necessarily wanting to hear the answer from the advocate. they're making a point to one of the other justices. and so you as the advocate have to just understand, you're guiding a conversation more than like giving a speech and saying why you're right. and that's where that listening skill is so important. can you figure out what the justice is trying to say to her or his colleagues. >> so it's not only the question, but also what may be behind the question, vis-a-vis another magistrate. >> exactly. it's 3-d chess. >> that's very
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