Retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote in a few landmark issues, including access to abortion. Now that he’s retiring, pro-choice America is biting its nails over his replacement, and the future of Roe v. Wade.
President Donald Trump picked Brett Kavanaugh, a judge on the District of Columbia Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. Kavanagh hasn’t expressed outright disapproval of Roe v. Wade, but he did dissent to a decision last October to allow an undocumented immigrant teen in detention to seek an abortion.
"The government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion,” he wrote. He added, however, that “all parties to this case recognize Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey as precedents we must follow."
Still, Kavanaugh has a reputation as a stalwart conservative, bound to shift the political balance of the court. Which prompts the question: If Roe v. Wade is overturned, what does that mean for Minnesota?
The good news for pro-choice advocates is that Minnesotans have a state constitutional right to abortion. On top of that, Minnesota is one of the handful of states that pays for abortions for low-income patients who can’t afford one. That doesn’t change even if the Supreme Court topples Roe v. Wade.
What worries NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota director Andrea Ledger is what the Supreme Court could do outside of Roe v. Wade.
She has seen the court consider huge limitations on abortion access on the state level. Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which contested states’ rights to put strict regulations on clinics (like having admitting privileges at a hospital 30 miles away at the most) won on a 5-3 vote. Had it gone the other way, it would have put a number of clinics out of business.
Then there are bans based on gestational age, and mandatory waiting periods that require patients to stew on their choice -- all stuff that has been tried in the lower courts.
“The Supreme Court could potentially rule on any of those state initiatives,” Ledger says.
NARAL held a rally at the Capitol on Monday to protest Trump’s Supreme Court candidate short list, and there are more demonstrations planned for the summer. Ledger believes anybody on that list -- including Kavanaugh -- will undermine access to abortion.
“Seven out of 10 Americans support abortion rights,” she says. “We’re not just going to stand by and let this happen.”