Guest Column

Supreme Court snubs UN human rights experts during abortion case oral arguments

abortion, supreme court

(Washington, D.C. – C-Fam) The Supreme Court ignored claims from human rights experts and academics that abortion is an international human right during oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.

The justices of the Supreme Court did not raise any questions about international human rights law during oral arguments in the Dobbs case even though UN human rights experts petitioned the court to overturn Mississippi’s ban on abortions carried out after the 15th week of pregnancy, the moment when children in the womb can feel pain.

The snub leaves open the question of how, if at all, the justices view international human rights law. Even though the justices did not assess international law claims during oral arguments, it does not mean the justices are not giving thought to international human rights law. On the contrary, a brief exchange between Supreme Court Justice John Roberts and Julie Rikelman, the attorney of the Center for Reproductive Rights representing the Mississippi abortion group, gave a glimpse of what the justices may discuss between themselves in coming weeks and months.

READ: Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts: U.S. abortion law mirrors that of oppressive regimes

In what may prove to be a revealing moment, Chief Justice Roberts said Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban was not “dramatic” since it reflected “the standard that the vast majority of other countries have.”

Chief Justice Roberts notoriously disappointed pro-lifers in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellertedt case in 2016. He sided with liberal justices in striking down abortion restrictions because they imposed an “undue burden” on women’s ability to access abortion in Texas. In the Dobbs case pro-lifers hope that he will switch sides, and he certainly gave them some hopes that a switch may be in the works….

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Editor’s Note: Stefano Gennarini, J.D. writes for C-Fam. This article first appeared in the Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-Fam (Center for Family & Human Rights), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute ( This article appears with permission.

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