Abortion key issue in Supreme Court nomination process

pro life signs Pro-life signs at the 2018 March for Life in Washington, DC. Jonah McKeown/CNA

As speculation mounts over who President Donald Trump will nominate as the next Supreme Court Justice, pro-life and pro-abortion voices are making it clear that the nominee's stance on abortion will be a key issue.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged Friday that a Trump Supreme Court nominee will be voted on for confirmation by the United States Senate, even while there are fewer than seven weeks until the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic mother of seven, is reported to be Trump's top choice, according to sources with insider knowledge. 

On Saturday, a major pro-life organization endorsed Barrett and urged President Trump to nominate her.

"At this crucial time in the history of our great nation, it is imperative that a respected nominee is selected who will understand that the role of the High Court is to fairly interpret America's Constitution and laws according to the meaning and intention of Congress and the Framers, and not seek to write their own value judgments into law," Catherine Glenn Foster, President & CEO of Americans United for Life, said in a Sept. 19 statement.

"It is a certainty that in the coming years, the Court will be asked to rule on questions fundamental to the functioning of our Republic, including the most important human rights question of our time: the human right to life," she continued.

"We are confident that if appointed to the Supreme Court, Judge Barrett would prove herself a trusted caretaker of the Constitutional protections extended to every human person in America, including human lives in the womb."

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served on the court for more than 27 years, died of pancreatic cancer Sept. 18 at age 87. President Bill Clinton appointed Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993.

She was an outspoken supporter of legal abortion throughout her career, and consistently penned opinions in favor of abortion and contraception, including a dissent in a 2007 case upholding a law that banned partial-birth abortion. She wrote a concurring opinion in a 2016 case which struck down restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas.

Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, on Friday praised Ginsburg's legacy of upholding abortion protections.

"The fate of our rights, our freedoms, our health care, our bodies, our lives, and our country depend on what happens over the coming months," acting president of Planned Parenthood Alexis McGill Johnson said in a Sept. 18 statement.

"It would be an absolute slap in the face to the millions of Americans who honor and cherish Justice Ginsburg's legacy if President Trump and Mitch McConnell were to replace her with someone who would undo her life's work and take away the rights and freedoms for which she fought so hard," Johnson continued.

Appointed a federal judge in 2017, Barrett had been a professor at Notre Dame's law school until her nomination was confirmed. Barrett has twice been honored as "Distinguished Professor of the Year" at Notre Dame, and had clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

As a nominee to the federal bench, Judge Barrett was pointedly questioned by Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee in 2017 on how her Catholic faith would influence her decisions as a judge on cases of abortion and same-sex marriage.

According to Axios, Trump in 2018 said of Barrett that he was "saving her for Ginsburg" in explanation of his decision not to appoint her to the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

As pro-lifers have noted in the past, if the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade and removes the inferred constitutional protection for abortion, the legality of abortion would be subject to state-by-state regulation.

As many as a dozen states, including New York and California, have enshrined a right to abortion in their own consitutions. Other states, such as Arkansas, have "trigger laws" on the books that would automatically ban abortion entirely if the case were overturned.

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Ginsburg and her husband Marty, who died in 2010, were secular Jews. The couple was noted for their many years of friendship with the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife Maureen, who were devout Catholics. 

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