Supreme Court justices and judges on lower federal courts affect women’s lives when they rule on choice-related cases. To protect our rights, the president must choose judges who believe in the right to privacy.
Supreme Court Justices' Positions on Choice
Where do the Supreme Court justices stand on a woman's right to make private medical decisions?
In 2005, Chief Justice Roberts joined the Supreme Court at the age of 50, practically guaranteeing that he will guide the Court for many years to come. Chief Justice Roberts has already demonstrated his anti-choice position on the Court by voting to uphold the Federal Abortion Ban, a law that undoes critical protections previously afforded by Roe v. Wade.
Justice Alito's anti-choice position was already well-documented before he joined the Supreme Court. By voting to uphold the Federal Abortion Ban, he showed that his anti-choice stance has not changed since his confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Justice Breyer is one of the strongest supporters of reproductive freedom on the court today. If Breyer retired and was replaced by a less vigorous supporter of the right to choose, the balance would shift dramatically. The U.S. Supreme Court decided the two most significant recent cases concerning the fundamental right to choose by a one-vote margin.
Justice Ginsburg is one of the strongest supporters of the right to choose on the Supreme Court. Her opinions while on the Court, as well as her professional activities prior to becoming a federal court judge in 1980, demonstrate her commitment to the constitutional rights of privacy and choice. If Ginsburg retired and was replaced by a less vigorous supporter of the right to choose, the balance would shift dramatically. The last two cases addressing the fundamental right to choose were decided by a one-vote margin.
Justice Kagan was sworn in as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court on August 7, 2010 She has not yet ruled on a woman's right to choose.
Kennedy has been touted by many as a so-called "swing" vote on the issue of a woman's right to choose. Despite the fact that Kennedy refused to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Casey plurality opinion, his other reproductive rights decisions show that his support for the right to choose is tenuous. Most recently, he authored the Carhart opinion upholding the Federal Abortion Ban, putting women's health in serious jeopardy.
Justice Scalia is an extremely anti-choice member of the Court. He consistently votes to limit a woman's right to choose, and has called for Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey to be overruled.
Justice Sotomayor was sworn in as a justice on August 8, 2009. She has yet to rule on any cases addressing a woman's right to choose.
Justice Thomas is an extremely anti-choice member of the Court. He consistently votes to limit a woman's right to choose, and has called for Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey to be overruled.
Roe v. Wade stands as a milestone to women’s freedom and equality, and one of its most fundamental tenets is that a woman’s health must always be protected. Yet 40 years after the Supreme Court recognized the right to choose and the vital importance of women’s health, attacks on women’s privacy, and on health protections in particular, continue. Time after time, anti-choice lawmakers vote down proposed health exceptions to abortion restrictions, and prominent anti-choice leaders openly state their opposition to protecting women’s health.
If Roe v. Wade were overturned, it would open the door for anti-choice lawmakers in state and federal governments to enact and enforce laws banning abortion. In fact, some states already have abortion bans on the books, either from before Roe or because they enacted laws after Roe hoping to prompt the Supreme Court to overturn it. Currently, these bans are unenforceable; however, if Roe were overturned they would become enforceable immediately. Still other states have anti-choice legislatures and governors likely to enact abortion bans if Roe were overturned.
When Roe v. Wade was decided in January 1973, abortion except to save a woman’s life was banned in nearly two thirds of states. Laws in most of the remaining states contained only a few additional exceptions. An estimated 1.2 million women each year resorted to illegal abortion, despite the known hazards of frightening trips to dangerous locations in strange parts of town, of whiskey as an anesthetic, doctors who were often marginal or unlicensed practitioners, unsanitary conditions, incompetent treatment, infection, hemorrhage, disfiguration, and death.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on many choice-related cases since 1927.