Three of the highest-ranking Democrats in Oregon—U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, Gov. Kate Brown and U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici—are sounding an alarm over what a new Supreme Court justice could mean for legal abortion in the United States.
With the U.S. Senate and the presidency in Republican control, the Democrats have no power to block a nominee except through an attempt at outside pressure. Abortion rights remain popular among Americans, but not among the Republicans who have control over two branches of the federal government in Washington, and are arguably about to extend control over the courts.
At a press conference in Portland this morning, the three Oregon officials demanded that the U.S. Senate reject any nominee that President Trump picks for the spot on the Supreme Court that has recently opened, and called on anyone opposed to the end of legal abortion to take whatever action they can.
"I guarantee you this if the president puts forward a name from the list of the federalist society, and if that individual is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, then we know that Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose is on the chopping block," Merkley said.
Roe v. Wade is, of course, the 1973 Supreme Court case that enshrined the constitutional basis for a right to an abortion in the U.S. Since that decision, court decisions have steadily limited that right. But with Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the court could dramatically swing in favoring of overturning the original decision.
It's not clear that would impact Oregonians directly. Brown pointed out that under Oregon's recently passed Reproductive Health Equity Act, women in Oregon are not at risk of losing reproductive care in the same way as women in other states. She vowed to oppose a justice that would overturn legal abortion for all women in the country anyway.
Behind the speakers, a handful of activists held signs that said, "Reproductive freedom for all," and "vote pro-choice."
"The threat could not be any clearer. They will take away our access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion and birth control, and punish women for taking care of their bodies and their futures," said Grayson Dempsey, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon.
Jillian Schoene, executive director of Emerge Oregon, which helps women run for elected office, finished the press conference with a personal story. She talked about when she chose to get a late-term abortion in 2012 because her daughter's ribs had not developed, meaning that she could not breathe after she was born.
"Abortion is healthcare. Those who attack women's health are blinded by ideology and willfully ignorant of the facts of my story and the stories of others," she said. "Quite frankly I will not be lectured by anyone, including a Supreme Court justice, who tries to tell me that I do not value life."