Fetal viability is at the center of Mississippi abortion case. Here’s why.

Conservative justices questioned that legal and scientific framework in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that could change abortion rights

The Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic is challenging Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

When the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments over Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it focused on a single question: Whether “fetal viability” is legitimate criteria for how far states may go to restrict women’s access to abortion.

In the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the court majority held that a women’s right to choose to end a pregnancy was protected by the Constitution, but that states could limit that right after the second trimester or 28 weeks, when a fetus might survive outside the womb. In 1992′s Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court affirmed that right but opted for a framework based on fetal viability rather than trimesters.

Here’s why that’s important and what it means for the case currently before the court, and more broadly, for abortion rights in the United States.