Democrats Warn Roe v Wade Changes Will Intensify Calls for Supreme Court Reform Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on April 29, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Monday, 24 May 2021 08:03 AM
Democrat senators are warning that changes to Roe v. Wade will intensify calls for Supreme Court reform.
The Supreme Court last week agreed to hear a case involving a Mississippi abortion law, which bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with limited exceptions.
The court's conservative-leaning majority was put on notice by Democrats such as Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"Chipping away at Roe v. Wade will precipitate a seismic movement to reform the Supreme Court," Blumenthal said, The Hill reported Monday. "It may not be expanding the Supreme Court, it may be making changes to its jurisdiction, or requiring a certain numbers of votes to strike down certain past precedents.
"It will inevitably fuel and drive an effort to expand the Supreme Court if this activist majority betrays fundamental Constitutional principles. It’s already driving that movement."
Mississippi's law was blocked by lower courts as being inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent that protects a woman's right to obtain an abortion before the fetus can survive outside her womb.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the Mississippi case after it convenes in October. A decision could come next year.
Another Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said the court’s review of the Mississippi law raises serious concerns.
"It really enlivens the concerns that we have about the extent to which right-wing billionaire money has influenced the makeup of the court and may even be pulling strings at the court," Whitehouse said.
"We’ve got a whole array of options we’re looking at in the [Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States]."
President Joe Biden signed an executive order to establish the commission, a 36-member panel of legal scholars, retired judges, and practicing lawyers, tasked with researching various reform ideas and submitting a report.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., last month proposed expanding the Supreme Court by four seats.
Even if there isn’t much support for that measure, Whitehouse said other reforms could be pursued.
He mentioned "easy" reforms such as "proper disclosure and transparency" of the "gifts, travel and hospitality" received by the judges themselves and the "people who are behind front-group amicus curiae briefs" and "who was funding the political advertisements for the last three judges, writing $15-million and $17-million checks," according to The Hill.
Markey expressed frustration with the court and a Senate split evenly along party lines in a tweet Friday.
"Trying to legislate with a GOP packed Supreme Court and the Jim Crow filibuster is always 1 step forward, 3 steps back," he tweeted.
Progressive lawmakers and advocates have made it clear they intend to focus on expanding the court.
"Groups like ours are doing work every day of the week, 52 weeks a year to build support for that proposal," said Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice.
The Mississippi case is not the only one to which Democrats are keeping close attention. The court is expected to hand down decisions soon on Obamacare and gun control.
Chipping away at Roe v. Wade, however, could incite progressives in their fight to expand the court.
"Part of our strategy here is to build support slowly but surely and grind out as much consensus around these ideas as we can for now and then be read for if and when a big moment grabs the public attention comes," Fallon said. "I think [the Supreme Court’s] next term is shaping up to be that."
A decision affecting Roe v. Wade also could impact the 2022 midterm elections.
"Being able to add justices may well depend on first adding more Democratic senators to the Senate and therefore this could have a significant impact on the midterm elections," Elliot Mincberg, a senior fellow at People for the American Way, told The Hill.
"Some people on the right may be saying to themselves, 'Be careful what you wish for.'"