By Andrew Chung and Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON, December 2 (Reuters) – The month before being elected president in 2016, Donald Trump vowed during a debate with his opponent Hillary Clinton to appoint justices to the United States Supreme Court who would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade who legalized abortion nationwide.
His three appointees – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – may be on the verge of making that commitment a reality, based on their remarks during debates over the legality of a restrictive abortion law in Mississippi. .
“Trump is very efficient, as we have seen at the Supreme Court,” said Mike Davis, who heads the Article III project legal group that supported the judicial appointments of the former Republican president during his tenure, referring to Wednesday’s arguments. “He delivered, as he had promised.
During four years in office, Trump managed to nominate a third of the current members of America’s highest judicial body and half of his conservative bloc, his three choices coming from a list compiled by conservative legal activists.
Wednesday’s arguments marked the first time the current court heard a case in which Roe’s overthrow was explicitly on the table. Trump’s appointees – Gorsuch in 2017, Kavanaugh in 2018, and Barrett in 2020 – may play a determining role in how far the court can go to roll back abortion rights. The six Tory judges have indicated their desire to severely restrict abortion rights and possibly even overthrow Roe outright.
Then-candidate Trump said during the October 2016 debate with Democrat Clinton on the overthrow of Roe: “Well, if we put two or maybe three more judges, that … will automatically happen in my opinion because I put pro-life judges on the court. “
It was a pitch that won over conservative Christian voters who helped him take office and remained among his strongest supporters. Trump has yet to announce whether he will run again in 2024.
“I think it’s more possible than any other time we’ve seen at least in my life,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life group which holds annual anti-abortion rallies in Washington, about Roe’s overthrow.
While saying that politics is only part of the effort to stop abortion, Mancini added, “I am very grateful to President Trump for the decisions he has made.”
Barrett’s appointment in particular has boosted religious conservatives and anti-abortion activists, cementing the court’s Tory 6-3 super-majority. Barrett, a devout Catholic and former lawyer, had shown his support for Roe’s overthrow in the past.
COMPLIANCE WITH PRECEDENTS
Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett expressed doubts during the discussion, either about Roe’s legal foundations or whether it was necessary to comply with it as a major decades-old ruling, a legal principle known as stare decisis. Supporters of the principle have said it protects the credibility and legitimacy of the court by avoiding politicization and keeping the law stable and impartial.
Gorsuch pointed out what abortion opponents see as a weakness in the argument to keep Roe: it was already altered and limited by a 1992 decision titled Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey who reaffirmed the right to abortion and testing the restrictions that states may enact has “also evolved over time.”
Kavanaugh emphasized the American divisions over abortion, offering a view often expressed by opponents of abortion that the issue should be an issue for the “people” – state legislatures or Congress. American – to be decided.
“The Constitution is neither pro-life nor pro-choice on the issue of abortion,” Kavanaugh said.
Barrett during his Senate confirmation hearings indicated that Roe was not a “super precedent” that should never be rescinded. During Wednesday’s arguments, Barrett raised the idea that some precedents should be more difficult to override than others.
She also asked whether the recent passage in some states of “safe house” laws, which allow women to hand over unwanted babies to health facilities without penalty, undermines some justifications for abortion because women are not. not forced into motherhood simply by giving birth.
The last time the Supreme Court came so close to overthrowing Roe was in the Casey case of 1992, when his moderates banded together and reaffirmed the right to abortion.
The outcome could be different this time around in part thanks to decades-long efforts by conservative legal activists to reshape the court and the remarkably effective political maneuvering of a key Republican senator, Mitch McConnell.
Trump took office with a vacant Supreme Court job because McConnell, then Senate majority leader, refused to consider President Barack Obama’s Democratic nominee in 2016. Then, last year, McConnell asked for the Senate to quickly confirm Barrett a week before the presidential election to replace the late Liberal Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an abortion rights champion.
Roe v. Wade acknowledged that the right to privacy under the United States Constitution protects a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy. The 2018 law, backed by Republicans in Mississippi, blocked by lower courts, prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A decision in the case must be rendered by the end of next June.
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(Report by Andrew Chung and Lawrence Hurley, edited by Will Dunham)
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