Maddow on Trump SCOTUS pick: Could be 'the pull-the-fire-alarm moment'

Rachel Maddow on Wednesday spoke out on the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, warning pro-abortion rights advocates that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill FDA head pledges 'we will not cut corners' on coronavirus vaccine Let our values drive COVID-19 liability protection MORE's next nominee could ultimately vote to end legal abortion in the U.S.

The MSNBC host said the high court “is about to change radically on that issue,” telling her viewers the likely fall confirmation fight is “the pull-the-fire-alarm moment that you have been expecting.”

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The perspective from Maddow came just hours after Kennedy, 81, rocked Washington with the announcement of his retirement from the bench at the end of July.

Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill No signs of breakthrough for stalemated coronavirus talks State aid emerges as major hurdle to reviving COVID-19 talks MORE (R-Ky.) almost immediately started to discuss the timeline to vote on the president's selection to replace Kennedy.

"The Senate stands ready to fulfill its constitutional role by offering advice and consent. ... We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.

Maddow pointed to abortion as one of the main issues that could be affected by a new Supreme Court justice.

“A clear majority of Americans want and expect that abortion will be legal in this country,” Maddow said. “The Supreme Court has agreed since 1973 [following the landmark Roe v. Wade decision], but the Supreme Court is about to change radically on that issue specifically."

“And this sometimes feels like a perennial fight in this country. In this case, it’s not. In terms of the legal constitutional protected right to access abortion services in this country, this may be the pull-the-fire-alarm moment that you have been expecting.”

Maddow, MSNBC's top-rated host, also warned that birth control could become illegal if the president chooses a staunch conservative to replace Kennedy, who was often seen as a swing vote on the high court.

“What if birth control was illegal? What would you do if birth control was illegal?” Maddow asked aloud. “It used to be illegal in some places, but then Griswald versus Connecticut [the 1965 Supreme Court case regarding access to contraception], Estelle Griswold versus a law in Connecticut about birth control, that case was decided 7-2 by the Supreme Court in 1965."

“It gave married couples the right to access birth control regardless of where they lived,” the host continued. “Over the next decade plus, the Supreme Court overturned laws in other states that banned birth control for unmarried couples or for teenagers. Access to birth control became the law of the land.”

Abortion is shaping up to be a major issue surrounding who the president ultimately decides to nominate. One of Kennedy's more significant votes was in 1992, when he joined the 5-4 majority in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in reaffirming the constitutional right to an abortion established in Roe v. Wade. 

Trump indicated Wednesday he has a list of 25 choices that was originally compiled before choosing Neil Gorsuch in January 2017 shortly after taking office to fill the seat vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia's passing in 2016.