Monday, April 12, 2010

Justice Stevens Announces Retirement; Replacement Nominee Must Support Right to Privacy

Since Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement from the Supreme Court last week, the question of whom President Obama will nominate to take Stevens’ place is on everyone’s minds.  As the most senior Justice in the court, Stevens’ role is a substantial one in the upholding of Roe v. Wade.  Appointed in 1975 by Gerald Ford, Stevens has been one of the strongest supporters of the right to choose.

Along with the question of who will replace Stevens, is how his departure will change the dynamics of the court. Stevens holds a unique position on the bench; He is the most senior justice and also left-leaning.  Right now, the nine justices are narrowly divided on issues related to reproductive health: three justices support the constitutional right to choose (including Stevens); four oppose the constitutional right to choose; one has yet to rule on any cases addressing a woman's right to choose; and one has a mixed record on the right to choose, and has voted to uphold substantial restrictions, including the Federal Abortion Ban. 

This will be the second opportunity President Obama has had to nominate a Justice to the Supreme Court.  Last year Obama nominated the first woman of color to serve on the High Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, to replace Justice David Souter.  Since Souter and Stevens are considered to have liberal voting records, the appointments of their replacements are not expected to shift the political make-up of the court.  However, with four members of the court in their seventies, future retirements are almost a certainty. It is crucial that the Obama administration ensure that any current or future appointee fully support a woman’s constitutional right to privacy.

In the fight to uphold Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court plays a critical role that should not be overlooked.  We need to remember that access to safe, legal abortion care hangs in the balance of the Supreme Court.  There is no doubt that the anti-choice movement will use this vacancy as an opportunity to further their attacks on nominees who have taken pro-choice positions. America's pro-choice majority must fight back.  This vacancy also gives anti-choice politicians the chance to make abortion a prominent issue in the 2010 mid-term congressional elections.  It’s imperative that the Obama administration doesn’t succumb to the pressure to choose a moderate candidate in an effort to avoid controversy.  Tell President Obama to say no to the right wing and nominate a pro-choice justice. Sign our petition and help protect the court today!

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