More than 200 Republican members of Congress signed a legal brief on Thursday asking the United States Supreme Court to consider overturning the landmark 1973 ruling that established a woman’s right to an abortion.
The amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief claimed pro-abortion bills like Roe be overruled because they create an “unworkable standard” that courts cannot apply sensibly or consistently, and urged the justices to uphold a Louisiana law that severely restricts access to the procedure.
Thirty-nine senators and 166 House members, as well as two centrist House Democrats Dan Lipinski and Collin Peterson, signed the document emphasizing Roe v. Wade “should be reconsidered and, if appropriate, overruled.”
They referenced June Medical Services v. Gee, a key abortion-related case set to be heard in early March that will determine whether the state of Louisiana can require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
It will go before the courts this spring and will be the first abortion case heard by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh since his controversial appointment to the bench last year.
“The court has exercised that judgment to overrule precedent in over 230 cases throughout its history,” the amicus brief read.
“Forty-six years after Roe was decided, it remains a radically unsettled precedent: Two of the seven justices who originally joined the majority subsequently repudiated it in whole or in part, and virtually every abortion decision since has been closely divided.”
They also asked the justices to consider overturning another landmark abortion ruling in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which crafted the “undue burden” standards for abortion restrictions, that states a legislature cannot make a particular law that is too burdensome or restrictive of a person’s fundamental rights.
The amicus brief Louisiana’s Act 620, an abortion restriction similar to one struck down by the Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt three years ago. The 5-3 ruling stated that Texas cannot place restrictions on the delivery of abortion services that “create an undue burden” for women seeking an abortion.
In an emailed statement, Planned Parenthood said if the courts were to let the law stand, two out of three abortion clinics in Louisiana would be expected to close.
Samuel Lau, director of federal advocacy media for Planned Parenthood Votes, said in a statement to Global News that putting abortion on the chopping block “goes against the will of the people.”
“These anti-abortion politicians are making it very clear — they want the Supreme Court to effectively ban abortion, precedent be damned. To the members of Congress who signed on to this amicus brief: Brace yourselves for the consequences you will face at the ballot box in November.”
In an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released in June 2019, 77 per cent of respondents said they supported a woman’s right to abortion in some form, although a strong majority said they would like to see restrictions on abortion rights.
According to the poll, almost two-thirds of respondents said they were either somewhat or very dissatisfied, including 66 per cent of those who self-identify as “pro-life” and 62 per cent of those who self-identify as “pro-choice.”
“What it speaks to is the fact that the debate is dominated by the extreme positions on both sides,” Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist Poll, said in a statement.
“People do see the issue as very complicated, very complex. Their positions don’t fall along one side or the other… The debate is about the extremes, and that’s not where the public is.”
Notably, several Republicans up for re-election, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins did not sign the brief.
Republican Congressman Fred Keller tweeted he was “proud” to join lawmakers “in standing up for the unborn and seeking to protect life.”
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren accused Republicans of wanting to “turn back the clock” and “deny people reproductive care” on Twitter.
Former vice-president and 2020 presidential contender Joe Biden weighed in.
“Donald Trump stacked the Supreme Court with justices to try to overturn Roe v. Wade — and now Republicans are seizing the opportunity to restrict a woman’s constitutional right to choose. We have to fight these attacks and ensure this choice remains between a woman and her doctor,” he tweeted.
California assemblywoman Christy Smith also slammed Republicans, adding “Why do men continue to think they should be able to dictate what we women can do with our own bodies?”