Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement, commencing the 31st of July. Though 81-years-old, many were hoping that he would retain his position until the end of President Trump’s term. When Kennedy vacates his position, Trump has vowed to fill his seat with a judge that will overturn America’s landmark 1973 abortion case, Roe v. Wade.
Though Kennedy was appointed by a Republican President Reagan, his political persuasion has been difficult to pigeonhole throughout his tenure. He has voted to uphold abortion rights and protect sexual orientation. The judge overturned a ruling that stopped homosexuals bringing discrimination claims, invalidated a law against sodomy and authored a majority ruling in favour of same-sex marriage. At the same time his vote has swung for and against gun control and in favour of capital punishment.
As his retirement date nears his legacy on a woman’s right to determine their pregnancy is in jeopardy. As it stands there are four pro-choice justices - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer - and four anti-choice - Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and John Roberts. If - really it’s a when - an appeal of Roe v. Wade or a similar lawsuit challenging abortion makes its way to the Supreme Court the incoming-justice will be the swing vote.
‘We have a chance to take down Roe v. Wade,’ Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of anti-abortion not-for-profit The Family Leader told Fox News, ‘This is a historic moment in the pro-life community today’. Echoing the fear spread by Vander Plaats, Professor Mary Ziegler who has written about the abortion bill in detail, told NY Times, ‘[Kennedy] has been the defining force in American abortion law since the ’90s, so his absence means that Roe will be much more in peril’
‘Kennedy had been the decisive vote in several cases preserving the rights to abortion, and as a result, his retirement means the court could shift against the constitutional right to abortion and access to abortion,’ senior director of U.S. litigation at the Center for Reproductive Rights Julie Rikelman told the Cut.
Trump’s list of nominees is, as expected, conservative. Planned Parenthood along with Senate Democrats are gearing up for a fight. Previously, when Justice Antonin Scalia unexpectedly died during Obama’s time in office the Republican party refused to act on the nominees the then-president had presented. In fighting spirit, Senate Democrats have decided to follow the example set out by the Republican party and promised to block hearings for Trump's candidates.
Senator Dianne Feinstein tweeted: ‘4 months away from an election, there should be no consideration of a Supreme Court nominee until the American people have a say. Leader McConnell set that standard when he denied Judge Garland a hearing for nearly a year, and the Senate should follow the McConnell Standard now.’ Likewise, Senator Kristen Gillibrand said, ‘The President just said the next Supreme Court nominee WILL come from his list of 25 judges that passed his overturning Roe v. Wade litmus test. We need to say NO hearings before the election and work our hearts out and take back the Senate.’
'It scares me that we're in 2018 and still talking about overturning Roe v. Wade,' says 28-year-old Funmi - an American citizen for whom this news will directly effect. 'Unfortunately I think there's a good chance it might actually happen. After watching the Supreme Court invalidate the Voting Rights Act and uphold the Muslim travel ban I've lost faith in the court's ability to protect my rights. '
Expect filibusters and fireworks, because the pro-choice women of America aren’t going down without a fight.