By ASHLEY LOPEZ • JUN 28, 2018
Abortion rights advocates in Texas say the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy raises the stakes for laws passed by the state Legislature.
Kennedy has been the swing vote on rulings upholding access to abortions in the U.S. for decades. Most recently, he voted to strike down a Texas law known as House Bill 2, which forced the closure of multiple abortion clinics across the state.
“We are one of the states where the harshest restrictions are tested out, and then if they pass muster, they get through our Legislature and then they go fight it out in the courts,” says Rosann Mariappuram, a board member with NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and a reproductive justice legal fellow….
Aimee Arrambide, the program manager and reproductive rights policy specialist at the Public Leadership Institute, says it’s not surprising that anti-abortion groups here are celebrating.
“I think that they are going to be as emboldened as they have been,” she says, “but we won’t have that protection of the Supreme Court that we’ve had in the past. And I think that’s what’s pretty scary.”
Arrambide says under the Trump administration the courts have gotten more conservative – including the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That means if people want to defend abortion rights in Texas, she says, they’ll have to do it at the ballot box.
“It demonstrates that we need to pay attention to our state and local elections,” she says.
Kennedy’s retirement could also affect access to contraception, Arrambide says. Conservative groups have pushed legislation allowing employers to deny coverage for their employees on religious grounds, among other things.
Abortion rights groups in Texas recently filed a lawsuit challenging a slew of old abortion laws that restrict access to the procedure in the state. They say that lawsuit is tied to past Supreme Court rulings on abortion rights, which could change with a new court.