The four key turning points that led to the fall of Roe vs. Wade

The sudden death of Judge Antonin Scalia in February 2016 initially appeared to end Conservative hopes of a Roe v Wade fall.

He had been the most outspoken opponent of abortion rights and the leader of its conservative wing. Judges Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined him to oppose Roe, but they lacked a majority.

But instead of ending every threat to Roe, Scalia’s death instead sparked a series of hard moves and unexpected developments that led to the Roe vs. Wade reversal.

There were four turning points:

McConnell’s bold venture

Just hours after Scalia’s death in 2016, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement saying he would not allow a hearing or vote on President Obama’s nominee to fill the seat. It was an unprecedented move in modern history to refuse to even consider electing a president.

“The American people should have a voice in choosing their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this position should not be filled until we have a new president,” he said.

A month later, Obama appointed Judge Merrick Garland, a respected veteran who had been praised by Senate Republicans in the past. But McConnell held firm, and Garland was even denied a hearing.

elected President Trump

The winner of the 2016 presidential race would choose Scalia’s successor.

Democrat Hillary Clinton was a strong pro-choice advocate, while Republican Donald Trump said he would appoint anti-abortion judges who would vote to overthrow Roe vs. Wade.

On Election Day, Clinton won more popular votes, but Trump won an Electoral College majority by prevailing in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Shortly after taking office, Trump selected Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, a friend and admirer of Scalia, for his seat on the Supreme Court.

Judge Kennedy is retiring

Judge Anthony M. Kennedy, a Republican appointee who voted to maintain Roe v. Wade, announced that he would be retiring at the age of 81.

Kennedy struggled with the abortion problem. He was a Catholic who believed that abortion was immoral, but he also believed that the Constitution protects individuals’ freedom to make personal decisions about their lives.

His resignation paved the way for Trump to nominate one of Kennnedy’s former employees, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, to fill his seat.

After a bitter fight in the Senate, Kavanaugh was confirmed by a vote of 50 to 48 thanks to a key vote of support from Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Although she supports abortion rights, Collins said Kavanaugh privately assured her that Roe was covered by law and she doesn’t expect him to break the precedent.

Ginsburg dies

Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court’s senior liberal and a champion of women’s rights, died on September 18, 2020 after a long battle with cancer.

She had been asked to retire in 2014 at the age of 81, which would have allowed Obama and the Democratic majority in the Senate to choose her successor.

When she died in 2020, the presidential election was only six weeks away. McConnell, however, abandoned his earlier claim that voters should decide a seat in an election year and said Trump should choose Ginsburg’s successor immediately. Early voting was already underway in some states.

Trump chose Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor and former Scalia employee. Like him, she believed that abortion was immoral and that Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided.

Senate Republicans, who had refused to consider Obama’s nominee, moved quickly to confirm Barrett in a party-line vote a week before Trump’s candidacy for re-election. When Barrett took her seat in November, the High Court was, for the first time, in a majority position to overthrow Roe v Wade. The four key turning points that led to the fall of Roe vs. Wade

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