With the recent news of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court, many have asked questions about what will happen as a result of his retirement. Justice Kennedy was often seen as a swing vote in crucial decisions brought before the Supreme Court. With the vacancy created that must now be filled, many are wondering how conservative the new justice will be and how that could possibly affect decisions such as Roe v Wade.
Roe v Wade was a decision handed down by the Supreme Court in 1973 that recognized that the constitutional right to privacy would extend to a woman’s right to make her own personal medical decisions. This landmark decision allowed women to make their own choices in regards to obtaining an abortion or not.
With President Trump’s appointment of Justice Gorsuch, a conservative Republican, the Supreme Court maintained its balance of four conservative-leaning justices and four liberal-leaning justices with Justice Kennedy generally being the swing vote in most decisions. With his retirement, the President has the opportunity to appoint another conservative-leaning justice to the Supreme Court to create a balance of five conservative justices and four liberal justices.
If President Trump decides to appoint a more conservative justice than in years past, Roe v Wade has been offered as one decision that will be most likely considered for reversal. This would put the issue of abortion back into the hands of individual states. There are currently four states that have “trigger laws” that will automatically ban abortion if Roe v Wade is overturned. Out of all 50 states, 8 states have laws that protect the right to choose abortion prior to viability or when necessary to protect the life or health of a woman.
With this crucial moment in the hands of President Trump, he will likely consider all of his options and have a short list of contenders for the vacant justice position. When the news of Justice Kennedy’s retirement broke, President Trump stated that the process of replacement would begin immediately and would come from the list of contenders that he released in November of 2017. It’s been reported that the initial favorite for replacing Justice Kennedy is Brett Kavanaugh, a federal appellate court judge based in Washington, D.C.
It will be interesting to see who finally does become the replacement nominee and if the Democrats vote along party-lines for their confirmation. The vacancy of Justice Kennedy has left a large door open for the current administration to strengthen their conservative base and bring in younger conservative justices to replace Kennedy.