US abortion rights may soon be consigned to the "ash heap of history," former vice president Mike Pence told activists Tuesday on the eve of a crucial Supreme Court hearing.
As the top court -- which shifted to the right under Donald Trump -- prepares to hear a case that may roll back 50 years of abortion rights, anti-abortion activists believe their moment may have finally arrived.
And Trump's former deputy, known for his firm Christian faith and conservative family values, said he was confident the landmark 1973 court decision guaranteeing a woman's right to abortion would be struck down.
"I do believe that Roe versus Wade will be overturned, whether it's now or in the near future," the Republican said in a Washington speech.
"I believe with all my heart that day will come," added the 62-year-old.
The case before justices on Wednesday regards a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Supreme Court has previously guaranteed a woman's right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, which is typically around 22 to 24 weeks.
Pence said the high court has a chance to right a "historic wrong" once and for all by ultimately invalidating Roe and handing authority on the matter back to the states.
"It will not come as a surprise. It will simply be the culmination of a 50-year journey," Pence said. "We have not struggled for so long... to turn back so close to the finishing line."
A segment of the American population, particularly on the political right and religious Christians, has never fully accepted the 1973 abortion ruling and has waged a full-fledged fight to have it overturned.
Abortion opponents for years have mobilized near health clinics seeking to discourage women against terminating their pregnancies and shame doctors who perform the procedures.
At the same time, in conservative states mostly in the US South, emboldened legislatures have passed hundreds of restrictive laws, some of which directly contravene Roe's constitutional guarantee of abortion rights -- and therefore provide an opportunity for the Supreme Court to revisit the issue.
The anti-abortion movement received a massive boost when Trump, aided by Republicans in the US Senate, installed three judges believed to have anti-abortion leanings on the high court, bringing the conservative majority to six of nine justices.
With such an advantage in place, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of anti-abortion group Susan B Anthony List, said she was "very hopeful" that the court will overturn or at least "hobble" Roe.