What Justice Kennedy’s Retirement Means For A Woman’s Right To Choose

Kennedy's replacement could decide the fate of Roe v. Wade. So, what would an America that outlaws abortions at the federal level look like?
Planned Parenthood supporters rally for women’s access to reproductive health care on “National Pink Out Day’’ at Los Angeles City Hall — Sept. 9, 2015 (AP/Nick Ut, File)

Planned Parenthood supporters rally for women’s access to reproductive health care on “National Pink Out Day’’ at Los Angeles City Hall — Sept. 9, 2015 (AP/Nick Ut, File)

Wednesday afternoon, the news broke that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was planning to retire, giving President Donald Trump a second opportunity to appoint a justice to the court, prompting overwhelming pushback from both Congressional Democrats and the American people. Given the current breakdown of the court, a new justice will likely shape its direction for decades to come. With Trump’s own promise to appoint anti-choice judges, there is an immense possibility that a more conservatively slanted court would move to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade almost immediately, allowing states to ban abortions if they see fit.

Obviously, the potential of Roe being overturned is wildly terrifying given the GOP’s clear goal to limit a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. Beyond this, a successful attack on reproductive rights would undoubtedly embolden certain Republican politicians to seek the Court’s opinion on other cases protecting civil rights (marriage equality immediately comes to mind).

What exactly does this mean for women’s rights on a daily basis? If Trump successfully appoints one of his choices, how would an attack on women’s rights come to fruition? Who would be hit hardest? As is often the case in this day and age, many of the answers to these questions depend on the state one lives in.

If Roe were overturned, abortion would not be outlawed nationally, but states would have the ability to make abortion illegal in all cases if they chose. Four states – Louisiana, Mississippi, and both Dakotas – currently have laws in place which would immediately outlaw abortion if the Court overturned Roe. Additionally, many states have laws banning abortion that were written before the 1973 decision, which could technically be enforced if the Supreme Court reversed the ruling.

We’ve also seen many attempts by Republican politicians in multiple states to limit abortion as much as possible within the current constitutional framework (see: John Kasich and others). As such, one can reasonably assume they would capitalize on a ruling allowing complete banning of abortions.

Limiting a woman’s right to control her own body has become a cornerstone of the modern Republican Party. With those in power so emboldened in regards to civil rights rollbacks, it’s highly likely that we will see a continued onslaught of attacks directed at women – with minority women, low-income women, and other disenfranchised groups bearing the brunt of these discriminatory policies.

So what do we do now? It’s important to note that hope is still very much alive, and we must fight to keep it this way. There exists an extremely slim possibility of blocking Trump’s nominee. Republican Sen. Susan Collins has voiced her support of the current law of the land, suggesting that she may vote against a nominee who would overturn Roe.

Beyond that, this moment in time serves to shine a stark spotlight on the inexorable importance of voting in every election – local and otherwise. As many marginalized groups tried to warn us – the Supreme Court was on the ballot in 2016. While we can’t go back in time, we can refuse to make similar mistakes moving forward. Come November; it is imperative that voter turnout smashes past records – our rights are literally on the line.

News // Abortion / Pro-Choice / Supreme Court / Womens Rights