Abortion Rights Could Be In Serious Trouble

by Cate Carrejo
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Donald Trump's latest detrimental staff appointment sent shockwaves through the women's rights movement Tuesday with the announcement of Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee. Gorsuch's pro-life stance could mean a major blow to abortion access in the United States, one of the most contentious issues of the new administration. Though Gorsuch's appointment probably doesn't mean any immediate changes to abortion rights, this could be the start of a long, slow decay in the pro-choice movement if the liberal resistance isn't careful.

Gorsuch has proven his commitment to conservative issues, like his concurrence on the Hobby Lobby ruling, and the abortion rights area is no different. NARAL Pro-Choice America said in a statement opposing Trump's pick, "With Judge Neil Gorsuch, the stakes couldn’t be higher when it comes to women and our lives. Gorsuch represents an existential threat to legal abortion in the United States and must never wear the robes of a Supreme Court justice."

Trump's announcement was entirely expected, but no less crushing for reproductive rights movement. Since he first introduced the concept of SCOTUS nominees back in May of last year, Trump has promised to appoint pro-life judges with the ultimate goal of overturning Roe v. Wade, appealing to his socially conservative base. According to The Hill, more than 90 percent of Trump supporters are in favor of the Hyde Amendment and abortion bans after the first trimester. Although Trump's fans may give him a skewed opinion on the importance of overturning Roe v. Wade, that goal may be more difficult than Trump imagines.

The case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the most important abortion rights case since Planned Parenthood v. Casey, was decided by a 5-3 majority. One strongly pro-life justice wouldn't have changed the court's decision, and that's all Trump's got to work with right now. Even if there is another open seat that was formerly filled by a liberal before he leaves office, Trump would also have to make sure that a case capable of overturning Roe v. Wade made it all the way to the Supreme Court. The likelihood of both happening in the next four years is small, so Gorsuch shouldn't have the opportunity to force his views on the 70 percent of Americans who support the right to choose.

What may start to happen is a coordinated effort on the part of the Trump administration to swing public opinion away from supporting abortion rights, removing the hurdle of nationwide support so that Gorsuch can help overturn Roe v. Wade. With the entire federal bureaucracy at his fingertips and an aggressively right-wing Education Secretary-nominee by his side, Trump could start to push pro-life ideology in schools similarly to abstinence-only education. It seems extreme at first thought, but it's honestly no less than you should expect from this increasingly fascist administration. Every time people underestimate Trump, he comes out with even scarier policies and rhetoric, so don't doubt that that's where he's headed.

"Neil Gorsuch's position on abortion rights isn't clear, though he did side with Hobby Lobby that bosses should be allowed to deny birth control coverage to women employees," All* Above All co-director Destiny Lopez said in a statement. "And given Trump's promise to punish women for abortion, we should expect the worst."

It's more important than ever to expound the virtues of bodily and volitional autonomy that the pro-choice movement supports. Girls don't deserve to grow up thinking they don't have complete say over what happens in their bodies, because all it does is help internalize rape culture and perpetuate institutional sexism. Gorsuch's appointment to the Supreme Court can't be accepted without a fight, so break out your magic markers and get your protest signs ready again.