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'The Stakes Could Not Be Higher': Abortion Rights Advocates React To Kennedy's Departure


Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy delivers remarks before administering the judicial oath to Judge Neil Gorsuch during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy delivers remarks before administering the judicial oath to Judge Neil Gorsuch during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement announcement raises questions about the future of abortion rights in the U.S.

In several cases, Kennedy was seen as a reliable firewall against attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established abortion as a constitutional right. As NPR’s Nina Totenberg reports:

President Trump has pledged to nominate a replacement who will almost certainly vote differently on many of these issues, putting some landmark decisions in jeopardy — from Roe v. Wade to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Here & Now‘s Robin Young speaks with Ilyse Hogue (@ilyseh), president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights advocacy group.

“This is what 5 million women marched in the streets on Jan. 21, 2017 for,” Hogue says. “Make no mistake that what [President Trump] aims to do — spurred on by an extreme ideological base — is to criminalize abortion, some kinds of contraception and punish women who seek to have control over our own lives, our own bodies and our own families. And we’re ready for it.”

Interview Highlights

On anti-abortion groups saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would be about ensuring children’s safety

“When I see some of those groups out in the streets crying over children who are locked in cages, children who have been kicked off of health insurance or denied nutritional assistance as a result of this administration and its GOP policies, then I will take them seriously. What they are about is maintaining control of women through our reproduction. That’s not actually what most people believe in this country — most people believe families do best when women are in charge with our doctors and our partners, as is appropriate, of how and when and with whom we have children.”

On the possible impacts of overturning Roe v. Wade

“What we know is everywhere around the world, when you make abortion illegal or criminalize it, that women find ways to do it. And this is not theory. I mean we’ve seen women jailed in the United States for self-inducing abortion. … All you have to do is talk to providers and clinics who say they get women calling them all the time saying, ‘I don’t have the money to get there.’ These are women without means, sometimes clinics are hundreds of miles away from their house, ‘I’ll tell you what I have in my kitchen cabinet, you tell me what to do,’ which of course the doctors can’t do.”

On whether the group plans to approach Republican lawmakers like Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins

“The answer is yes, of course we’ll have the conversation with Sens. Murkowski and Collins, but it’s not just a conversation for them. I think that there are other Republican senators, including Sen. [Jeff] Flake in Arizona, Sen. [Dean] Heller in Nevada, who are going to have to answer to their constituents who do not believe in criminalizing abortion and punishing women.”

On the group’s strategy moving forward

“We are organizing starting today, we’ll be having conversations with every single person in the Senate. But we’re also starting to look at, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the House is going to have to move statutorily. So getting the House members on the record about what they’re going to do to protect against this situation is hugely important as well.”

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