On Wednesday the Supreme Court heard the most direct challenge in almost 30 years to Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that the Constitution guarantees the right to choose to have an abortion before the fetus is viable. Arguing in favor of SCOTUS overturning Roe is a Mississippi lawyer named Scott Stewart, the state's solicitor general appointed by Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch earlier this year.
At the core of the Mississippi abortion case — also known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization — is a 2018 law that banned most abortions in Mississippi after 15 weeks but was blocked by lower courts. SCOTUS has previously held that states can put restrictions on abortion as long as they don't unnecessarily restrict access ("undue burden"), but states cannot outright ban abortion before fetal viability, usually around 23 weeks. In Mississippi abortion is currently legal up to 20 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
When presenting his side of the Mississippi abortion case in front of the justices on Wednesday, Stewart argued that abortion laws should be determined by voters and not established as a right by the courts, NBC News' Sahil Kapur reported. In a court brief published beforehand, Stewart wrote: "The conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition."
Here are some important things to know about Scott Stewart, Mississippi solicitor general.
Scott Stewart worked for the Department of Justice under President Trump.
Before his current role, from August 2017 to January 2021, Stewart worked as deputy assistant attorney general in the civil division of the United States Department of Justice. From January 2017 to August 2017, he was counsel to the assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Before that, he had a clerkship with conservative SCOTUS justice Clarence Thomas.
Scott Stewart used to deal mostly with immigration.
When he worked as the deputy assistant attorney general, he was in the office of immigration litigation, which made him the country's top immigration lawyer, according to the Washington Post. He defended family separations in federal court, according NBC News correspondent Jacob Soboroff, as well as requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexican border towns and denying unaccompanied minors lawyers in immigration court, per the Post.
Scott Stewart was involved with another high-profile abortion case.
In 2017, a pregnant 17-year-old staying in a federal refugee center in Texas obtained a court order allowing her to have an abortion, but the U.S. government prevented her from leaving the shelter for her appointment, the New York Times reported. Stewart helped defend the Trump administration's ultimatum that the teen either needed to go through with the pregnancy or leave the country. Stewart argued that because she could get the abortion in her home country, there was no "undue burden." A federal judged ordered the government to allow the girl to go through with the abortion.
Scott Stewart wasn't well-known in the anti-abortion movement.
Prior to Wednesday's oral arguments, Stewart wasn't well known among anti-abortion activists, the Post reported. The outlet spoke with two prominent figures in the movement, Allan Parker, president of the Justice Foundation, and Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel for Americans United for Life, both of whom said he was not a big name beforehand.
The Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization is expected at the end of the term, around the summer.