Anti-abortion groups see the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kenned, announced Wednesday, as their best shot in decades to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
“Justice Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court marks a pivotal moment for the fight to ensure every unborn child is welcomed and protected under the law,” said Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser.
Abortion opponents have hoped that President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE would get the chance to appoint another conservative anti-abortion rights justice who would vote in their favor should abortion cases rise to the high court.
Trump has previously vowed to nominate "pro-life" justices to overturn Roe V. Wade.
The groups have thus far been happy with Trump's first nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, who just this week sided with anti-abortion "crisis pregnancy centers" in a free speech case.
But they also acknowledged they need another "pro-life" voice on the court to take on abortion at large. The retirement of Kennedy, a swing-vote on the court who often sided with abortion rights, presents that opportunity.
“Now that Justice Anthony Kennedy — a 25-year defender of abortion on the Supreme Court and the key vote to perpetuate Roe v. Wade — is retiring, we urge President Trump to nominate a committed constitutionalist to the Supreme Court who will hew to the intended meaning of the nation’s charter and refrain from employing it as a means of social engineering," said Catherine Glenn Foster, president of American's United for Life, the self-proclaimed legal arm of the anti-abortion movement.
Abortion-rights groups sounded the alarm on Kennedy's retirement Wednesday, warning that a Trump nominee to the court could pose serious risks to abortion access.
“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.
"We also know that for decades, a multi-million-dollar, extreme, anti-choice movement has quietly and aggressively chipped away at that right in state legislatures, in lower courts, and now from within the Trump administration. Their stated goal, clearly and loudly, is overturning Roe v. Wade."
The Trump presidency has spurred another wave of abortion laws, with 19 states adopting 63 restrictions in 2017, the highest number since 2013, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Anti-abortion groups and Republican state legislatures and governors hope one of these laws will eventually land before the Supreme Court, triggering a challenge to Roe V. Wade.
"With this vacancy, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP should grab the chance to upend Pelosi's plan on reconciliation We don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble MORE hold the balance of the court in their hands — and with it, the legal right to access abortion in this country," said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood.
“The significance of today’s news cannot be overstated: The right to access abortion in this country is on the line."
Emily's List, a PAC which works to elect "pro-choice" lawmakers, called the ramifications of Kennedy's retirement "enormous and terrifying."
"Republicans will use this opportunity to nominate and confirm yet another anti-choice justice to the Supreme Court — a single individual with the power to repeal Roe v. Wade," said Emily's List president Stephanie Schriock.
"We will not stop fighting to elect pro-choice Democratic women to the Senate who will defend women's access to safe, legal abortion and other forms of critical reproductive health care and fight for the rights of all Americans. The stakes could not be higher."