During his time as president, Donald Trump could theoretically appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices, and his choices could radically reshape the country for the next few decades. Having already nominated judge Neil Gorsuch to the seat vacated after the death of late justice Antonin Scalia, Trump is already looking into options for his next major judicial appointment. This week, the White House released an updated shortlist that includes five new potential Supreme Court nominees. Unsurprisingly, all of the potential nominees have conservative records, and a number of them have made particularly controversial statements on reproductive rights.
Among the additions who been criticized for their remarks on Roe v. Wade include Amy Coney Barrett and Kevin Newsom. Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame University, was confirmed to a lifetime judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit last month. Some expressed concern during her hearing, however, about a legal paper that Barrett authored back in 2003, which suggested that the Supreme Court's decision to legalize abortion with the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973 was "erroneous."
Barrett is deeply Catholic, and while she said in her confirmation hearing that she would uphold the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, Sen. Dianne Feinstein expressed concern that her religious beliefs would affect her record on reproductive rights:
You're controversial because many of us who have lived our lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems, and Roe entered into that, obviously. … You have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail.
Kevin Newsom, a Court of Appeals judge for the Eleventh Circuit, also took on Roe v. Wade in an article that he authored back in 2000, comparing the landmark decision legalizing abortion to Dred Scott, an 1857 decision made by the Supreme Court which upheld slavery. In a letter addressed to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the progressive advocacy organization People For the American Way wrote that it had "serious concerns" about the judge, writing that his previous statement in regards to Roe v. Wade "could be interpreted as a call for lower court judges to chart their own way on issues like abortion and marriage equality."
Barrett and Newsom are not the only shortlist additions with questionable records on reproductive rights. Brett Kavanaugh, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, was recently caught up in a controversial case that prevented an undocumented teen from obtaining an abortion for several weeks. Although the D.C. Circuit Court did eventually grant the teen the right to have an abortion, Kavanaugh originally issued an order that further delayed her wait, rather than granted it to her right away. Many speculated that Kavanaugh tiptoed around the decision, seeking compromise in order to protect his conservative reputation should he eventually be nominated to the Supreme Court.
Rounding out the president's potential Supreme Court picks are Britt Grant, of the Georgia Supreme Court, and Patrick Wyrick, of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Although these two judges are less high profile, it's not hard to tell where either stands on abortion.
Last year, in her former role as the state's solicitor general, Grant did nothing to oppose a Georgia judge's decision to let the state's "fetal pain" abortion law stand. The law — which makes it illegal in most cases to perform abortions after 20 works of pregnancy — had been challenged in courts, but was ultimately upheld. And back in 2013, Wyrick, who served as his state's solicitor general, supported a measure that would have put restrictions on women seeking to purchase the "morning after" pill.
One thing that's important to note about all these potential nominees — they're all relatively young, which means that should any of them eventually be appointed to the Supreme Court, they'll likely stay there for a long time.