The announcement of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement means the make-up of the Supreme Court will likely change, and abortion rights are in trouble. Kennedy is conservative, but he believes in the right to choose abortion. Trump promised on the 2016 campaign trail that, if given the opportunity, he’d nominate judges who would overturn the 1973 SCOTUS ruling Roe v. Wade — which made abortion legal at the federal level.
Democrats are in a precarious position, and what happens next will determine women’s reproductive rights for generations to come. If Kennedy’s replacement is against abortion, Roe is in grave danger of being overturned.
What will that mean? The Guttmacher Institute outlined what it will be like in the absence of Roe:
Some state legislatures have abortion bans on the books that are ready to go into effect if and when Roe is overturned. Other states are doing the opposite by passing laws that will protect the right to choose with laws that will work within the same parameters of Roe, “These laws prohibit any interference with a woman exercising her right to obtain an abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the life and health of the woman.”
Guttmacher highlighted the sobering truth.
17 states have laws that could be used to restrict the legal status of abortion.
4 states have laws that automatically ban abortion if Roe were to be overturned.
10 states retain their unenforced, pre-Roe abortion bans.
7 states have laws that express their intent to restrict the right to legal abortion to the maximum extent permitted by the U.S. Supreme Court in the absence of Roe.
8 states have laws that protect the right to choose abortion prior to viability or when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.
Politico broke it down:
— If Roe falls, the states where abortion could be restricted: Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota already have laws that would automatically ban abortion if the federal law is struck down, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that backs abortion rights.
Eight states, planning ahead, also have statutes that express their intent to restrict abortions to the maximum extent allowed by the Supreme Court — Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota (in both categories) and Ohio.
— The states where access to abortion could be preserved: Eight states — three of them led by Republican governors — already have laws on the book that preserve a woman’s ability to get an abortion in the event that Roe is overturned. They are: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, and Washington state.
A challenge to Roe would likely spark lawmakers in both blue and red states to move their own legislation.
In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that it wasn’t appropriate for President Obama to nominate a SCOTUS judge during an election year. Republicans obstructed and refused to vote until after the presidential election. Now that we’re in another election year, Democrats are calling for Trump’s nomination to be postponed until 2019 – after the candidates who are elected in November’s midterms take office. It’s highly unlikely that Republicans, who control the House and the Senate, will follow the same rules they set in 2016. Their goal is to create a very conservative court.
Elections have consequences.