President Obama has been re-elected, and while many pro-life groups are disappointed, no one is calling it quits. The pro-life movement has made many gains in the last four years, and we will make many in the next four. For the most part, our struggle is a grassroots, local effort; having a pro-life president is a plus, but not a necessity.
The president’s greatest impact on abortion issues is in the area of Supreme Court nominations. A Romney presidency would have meant more pro-life Justices, and a possible overturning of Roe v. Wade. Under President Obama, what is likely to happen in the next four years?
It all depends on who dies or retires.
Four current Justices–Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito– believe that the Constitution leaves the abortion issue up to the states, which makes Roe v. Wade bad law. None of them would dream of resigning while Obama is in office. But if one of them dies in the next four years, Obama will undoubtedly replace him with a solidly pro-abortion Justice. In January of 2016, when Obama’s successor enters the White House, Scalia will be 79 years old; thus far, however, he has enjoyed good health. Thomas will be 67, Roberts 60, and Alito 65.
Justice Kennedy is in the mushy middle. He wrote the majority opinion in the case that upheld the partial-birth abortion ban, and infuriated abortion supporters by acknowledging affidavits from regretful post-abortive women. But he also helped write the lead opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where the Court had the opportunity to overturn Roe but declined to do so. He will be 79 in January of 2016.
Finally, there are four Justices who are committed to maintaining or expanding Roe v. Wade. An Obama replacement for any of these Justices will simply keep the status quo. These include his two earlier appointments, Kagan and Sotomayor, who are young, in good health, and have no reason to retire. Justice Breyer will be 77 years old in January of 2016. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the oldest member of the Court, and has suffered from numerous health problems, including pancreatic cancer. With Obama’s re-election, there are indications that she will retire some time before 2016.