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Supreme Court and Abortion

Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s illness underscores the importance of the presidential election in shaping the US Supreme Court. With no Supreme Court appointments in a decade, and with eight of the nine justices older than 65, two to four retirements on the Supreme Court are anticipated in the next four years. At stake in the balance of the Court are issues such as civil rights, women’s rights, lesbian and gay rights, reproductive rights, and environmental and labor protections. The last decision on the constitutional right to a safe, legal abortion was decided by a 5-4 majority, and the public release of the late Justice Harry Blackmun’s papers shows how fragile that majority is. Justice Anthony Kennedy, appointed by President Reagan, changed his vote at the last minute to protect abortion rights. Though Bush has refused to reveal whether he believes Roe should be overturned, he has said in the past that he would model his Supreme Court appointments on Justices Scalia and Thomas, who are both staunch abortion opponents. Kerry said in the final presidential debate, “I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade É I’m not going to appoint a judge to the Court who’s going to undo a constitutional right É And I believe that the right of choice is a constitutional right.”

Sources:

Los Angeles Times 10/26/04; People for the American Way 9/30/04; Feminist Majority