Pro-life group, pro-abortion groups react to Breyer’s retirement

A general view of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, United States, November 15, 2016. |

Activists on both sides of the abortion debate have reacted to the news that US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will retire at the end of the court’s term, warning that “the stakes are not have never been so high”.

First appointed to the nation’s High Court in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, the 83-year-old is the longest serving judge on the bench and the oldest of the court’s three liberals.

Stephane Breyer
The official portrait of United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. In January 2022, Breyer announced he was retiring from the bench. |

The news of his impending retirement, reported by NBC News on Wednesday, comes as Democrats have a narrow 50-50 majority in the US Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris voting in favor of the Democrats. The upcoming vacancy gives President Joe Biden his first opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court justice since taking office last year.

Additionally, news of Breyer’s decision to retire comes as the Supreme Court is expected to rule in the landmark abortion case. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization before the end of his current term. With abortion a hot-button issue that frequently ends up in court, Breyer was the author of recent Supreme Court opinions that struck down pro-life laws in Louisiana and Texas.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life lobbying organization Susan B. Anthony List, lamented that “Biden promised to appoint only judges who support abortion on demand until birth.” She has vowed to “vigorously oppose the President’s nominee” if he keeps his promise.

“The news of this vacancy comes as we await the Court’s decision in Dobbs this summer followed by the crucial midterm elections,” Dannenfelser added. “The stakes have never been higher in the fight to ensure legal protection for unborn children and put the matter back to the people to decide through their elected representatives, not unelected judges.”

Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, tweeted his gratitude for the “service rendered to our nation” by Judge Breyer.

“His retirement comes as access to abortion is under attack like never before,” she said. “We call on President Biden to appoint a candidate who will be a bold force and protect our health and our rights.”

Franklin Graham, the son of late evangelist Billy Graham and head of the evangelical humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse, urged his supporters to “pray for the next candidate”.

“We need someone who fears God – and who supports and protects the American Constitution,” the pro-life evangelist said in a Tweeter.

The pro-choice advocacy group NARAL tweeted that Breyer’s retirement is a “chance to shape the Court for decades to come”.

“We look forward to having another champion of reproductive freedom on the Supreme Court,” the organization said.

“It’s time for a black woman to judge in the Supreme Court”, NARAL declared. “We are ready to meet this moment and bring a champion of reproductive freedom to the bench.”

NARAL’s comments reflect Biden’s pledge during the 2020 presidential campaign to appoint an African-American woman to the Supreme Court.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki indicated that the president kept his promise during a press briefing at the White House on Wednesday. Unlike former President Donald Trump, Biden has not publicly released a list of jurists he would choose from in a Supreme Court nomination.

Breyer’s early replacement with another liberal judge appointed by a Democratic president won’t change the balance of the court, which consists of three Democratic-appointed judges and six Republican-appointed judges.

Supreme Court confirmation votes have become increasingly partisan over the years. Eighty-seven senators voted to confirm Breyer to the Supreme Court in 1994, compared to nine who voted against his confirmation. Breyer’s confirmation vote reflects the fact that a majority of Senate Republicans backed his nomination.

Nearly two decades later, only a handful of Senate Republicans have backed Democratic President Barack Obama’s two Supreme Court nominations. Nine Senate Republicans backed Obama’s nomination of Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2009, while only five Republicans voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan to the bench in 2010.

Only two of the Senate Republicans who voted for Obama’s two nominees, Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, remain in office.

Votes to confirm President Donald Trump’s three Supreme Court nominees were even more partisan. Only three Democrats backed the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch in 2017. That number fell to one by the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the court in 2018. No Senate Democrats voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the bench in 2020.

Biden’s Supreme Court nominee is expected to garner support from all 50 Senate Democrats, which isn’t a guarantee. In the two most recent Supreme Court nominations, a member of the president’s party voted with most or all members of the opposing party to oppose the nomination. In an equally divided Senate, a Senate Democrat joining all Senate Republicans in voting against confirmation would be enough to defeat the nomination.

Whoever Biden nominates to fill Breyer’s seat will first undergo confirmation hearings at the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. The full Senate will intervene if the candidate leaves the committee. Dick Durbin, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee announcement his intention to push “the President’s nominee quickly through the committee”.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be contacted at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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