What Justice Kennedy's Retirement Means For Abortion Rights

Anthony Kennedy

Supreme Court justices often posed a simple question when unsure of how to rule in a case: What would Justice Anthony Kennedy do?

It will be his second Supreme Court pick, one that will give him an opportunity to cement the conservative majority on the nation's high court for years to come.

Trump said he would begin the selection process with a list of 25 conservative candidates.

Conservative activists have long dreamed of building a firmly conservative majority on the court that would push to overturn the landmark 1973 ruling in the case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide. In 2016, fully 81 percent of self-identified white, evangelical Christians told exit pollsters they voted for Trump - while just 16 percent went for Clinton.

Trump has said in the past that he would pick Supreme Court justices that would overturn Roe vs. Wade.

"For voters in deep-red states who support Trump, this will be the litmus-test vote for whether you have President Trump's back or not", said Steven Law, president of the Senate Leadership Fund, a campaign group aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The issue is at the forefront of the emerging nomination fight because the nine-member court has been so closely divided on abortion, and Kennedy has been a crucial fifth vote.

Still, it is clear from statements, news conferences, interviews and in speeches on the Senate floor, McConnell consistently and specifically said that "the presidential election process" - and not "a lame-duck president" - should decide the next Supreme Court justice.

Two women are also reportedly on Trump's shortlist, including Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who is considered another frontrunner for Kennedy's seat. In 2013, McConnell, then minority leader, cautioned Democrat Harry Reid not to invoke the "nuclear option" - lowering the vote threshold for confirmation of judges and Cabinet officials from 60 to 51 votes.

The Republican caucus is lobbying hard to get Collins on board with Trump's eventual nominee, but the senator realizes she has no easy options, Politico reported. "We must elect more Republicans - we have to do that".

"I'm pro-life, but I know how that divides our country immediately, divides everyone", Manchin said during an interview on a West Virginia radio station. Among the issues now in the courts are Arkansas' regulation of abortion pills and a Kentucky law that would ban a common procedure for second-trimester abortions.

Northup, of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said restrictive laws recently passed by several states could work their way to the Supreme Court. Other states, including MS and Louisiana, have banned abortion at 15 weeks' gestation, and others have prohibited specific methods.

That's true, and it's the goal of many abortion-rights opponents, some of whom downplay the idea that abortion could become illegal nationwide.

"If he picks somebody that's hardcore on Roe v. Wade or that's hardcore on repealing healthcare that's a bigger lift", Manchin said.

"You see this over and over again and it's the usual rank speculation", Leo said.

Schumer said it would be "the absolute height of hypocrisy" for the Senate to move forward with confirming Trump's pick during an election year after using the 2016 election as the rationale for refusing to act on Garland.

"He is going to put someone on the court who will be the fifth vote to criminalize abortion, punish women and throw them in jail", declared Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

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