Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced on Wednesday that he is retiring, opening up another seat on the high court’s bench. Kennedy was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. His retirement is effective at the end of July.
Kennedy, 81, has long been the swing vote on the nine-member bench, tipping decisions in either direction on a number of hot-button issues including abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, guns, campaign finance reform, and voting rights. He has largely been supportive of abortion rights during his three decades on the bench.
His departure leaves an opening for President Donald Trump to make the high court even more conservative than it is now. Filling the seat vacated by Kennedy will be Trump’s second chance to nominate a Supreme Court Justice. Trump’s first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed in April 2017, filling the seat vacated by the unexpected death of Antonin Scalia. Abortion rights advocates immediately saw Kennedy’s retirement as an existential threat to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S. Trump already has a list of 25 possible nominees.
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin made a dire warning in a post on Twitter about the impact of Kennedy’s retirement. “Abortion will be illegal in 20 states in 18 months,” he wrote. “Right now, our right to choose is hanging in the balance. Another Trump #SCOTUS nominee would overturn #RoevWade — Trump and his anti-choice allies are on record stating that this is their end goal,” NARAL Pro-Choice wrote in a post on Twitter. Planned Parenthood posted a clip on Twitter from one of the 2016 presidential debates in which Trump talked about the possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade.
Anthony Kennedy is retiring. Abortion will be illegal in twenty states in 18 months. #SCOTUS
— Jeffrey Toobin (@JeffreyToobin) June 27, 2018
Right now, our right to choose is hanging in the balance. Another Trump #SCOTUS nominee would overturn #RoevWade—Trump and his anti-choice allies are on record stating that this is their end goal. This is the moment that NARAL was made for. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
— NARAL (@NARAL) June 27, 2018
Trump promised to overturn Roe v. Wade, and his lower court nominees are making this nightmare a reality. We can expect the next SCOTUS nominee to be no different. #SaveSCOTUS pic.twitter.com/hZH9c8c8Tv
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) June 27, 2018
Trump said the process to find Kennedy’s replacement will begin immediately. Some of the names reportedly on Trump’s list of nominees are Judges Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, William Pryor of Alabama, both of whom were in contention for the nomination that eventually went to Gorsuch, and Margaret Ryan of Virginia, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. One of the most controversial judges on the list is William Pryor of Alabama, who is on the bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Pryor holds extreme views of Roe v. Wade, according to The Washington Post, which reports he once described the ruling as “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.”
To see all the names on Trump’s list of potential nominees, click here. Of the 25 names on the list, five are women.
Read the full story at The Associated Press.