Back on the Bench, the Supreme Court Faces a Blockbuster Term

WASHINGTON — A transformed Supreme Court returns to the bench on Monday to start a momentous term in which it will consider eliminating the constitutional right to abortion, vastly expanding gun rights and further chipping away at the wall separating church and state. The abortion case, a challenge to a Mississippi law that bars most abortions after 15 weeks, has attracted the most attention. The court, now dominated by six Republican appointees, seems poised to use it to undermine and perhaps overturn Roe v. Wade , the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion and barred states from banning the procedure before fetal viability. The highly charged docket will test the leadership of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who lost his position at the court’s ideological center with the arrival last fall of Justice Amy Coney Barrett. He is now outflanked by five justices to his right, limiting his ability to guide the court toward the consensus and incrementalism he has said he prefers. The chief justice, who views himself as the custodian of the court’s institutional authority, now leads a court increasingly associated with partisanship and that recent polls show is suffering a distinct drop in public support. At a time when the justices have become uncharacteristically defensive in public about the court’s record, one poll taken last month by Gallup found that only 40 percent of Americans approved of the job the court was doing, the lowest rate since 2000, when Gallup first posed […]

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