Anthony Kennedy’s retirement is said by various resources to represents a “dire, immediate danger” to women’s reproductive freedom.
All of the potential nominees shortlisted by the Trump administration are believed to be jurists who would overturn the landmark decision, Roe v Wade, given the opportunity.
On January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in the case of Roe v. Wade, which recognized that the constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman’s right to make her own personal medical decisions — including the decision to have an abortion without interference from politicians. Over 40 years later, Americans are still standing by this decision: 7 in 10 Americans believe Roe v. Wade should remain the law of the land.
“Today, Justice Kennedy announced his retirement, and because President Trump will nominate the next supreme court justice, a woman’s constitutional right to access legal abortion is in dire, immediate danger – along with the fundamental rights of all Americans,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
“Our country faces a moment of deep crisis – a crisis of rights, of values and of leadership,” she said. “The deeply-divided decisions from the supreme court this week are a clear warning that our most cherished values are in jeopardy, and now hang in the balance. Women will not go back to the days when abortion was illegal in this country.”
Anti-abortion activists, meanwhile, described Kennedy’s retirement as a turning point in the movement.
For decades, American anti-abortion activists have chipped away at reproductive freedoms, as legislatures piled on restrictions. That strategy was developed, in part, to avoid court decisions that could strengthen Roe’s precedent. Kennedy’s retirement is likely to further embolden anti-abortion activists, who have already started to pass some of the world’s most restrictive anti-abortion laws.
If Trump, the GOP and conservative legal minds succeed, we will be back to the pre-Roe days of patchwork abortion rights across the United States. Before the Roe decision, abortion was largely illegal in the U.S. Overall, the landscape was grim. Large hospitals had “septic abortion wards” for women who came in with serious infections from unsafe illegal abortions; thousands of those women died. Many other women were forced to bear children against their will and were stigmatized for doing so. Unmarried pregnant women were routinely sent away to give birth and were coerced or sometimes forced into giving up their children for adoption — and then shamed into silence.
In some states, like New York, abortion will be legal even if Roe is overturned. Other blue states will scramble to remove pre-Roe anti-abortion laws from the books so that the procedure will become legal (moves that will certainly come with protracted legislative fights). But across much of the south and middle of the country, women will find themselves with far fewer rights than their blue-state sisters.