To pro-lifers who assume they'll automatically get a conservative judge to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, a word of caution. Republican-nominated justices have been accomplices in establishing and upholding abortion in this country for nearly 50 years.
Republican President Donald Trump campaigned on nominating Supreme Court justices to overturn the pro-abortion decision Roe v. Wade. But judges with clear track records on abortion and homosexuality will likely not be served up to the Senate for confirmation, and Republican nominees like Kennedy himself have proven to be an enemy of the unborn.
Kennedy was nominated in 1988 by a hallmark Republican president, Ronald Reagan. In 1992, however, Kennedy was the swing vote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey's 5–4 decision keeping abortion alive by upholding Roe v Wade. In that crucial decision, Kennedy spun the oft-refuted phrase, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."
Joining Kennedy and O'Connor in Casey's pro-abortion decision was Justice David Souter. Souter was nominated in 1990 by Republican President George H.W. Bush, based on assurances that he was pro-life. He went on in the Supreme Court to produce an almost perfect anti-life voting record.
The infamous Casey decision was shared by Justice Harry Blackmun, nominated in 1970 by Republican President Richard Nixon. Blackmun defended Roe in the 1992 Casey decision, but he's best known for authoring the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. He was joined in Roe's landmark abortion ruling by two other Nixon picks, Chief Justice Warren Burger and Justice Lewis Powell, Jr., nominated by Nixon in 1969 and 1972 respectively. Roe's 7–2 vote would have failed without these three Republican nominees voting to establish the parental right to kill a child.
In deciding Roe, Justice Blackmun gave pro-lifers the key to ending abortion. In the case, Texas argued that "the fetus is a 'person'" whose right to life was protected by "due process" and "equal protection" of law under the Fourteenth Amendment. Blackmun responded, "If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment." Blackmun, however, concluded that "the word 'person,' as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn."
The focus today is overturning Roe v. Wade and sending the issue back to the states. But these supposedly conservative justices changed the nation's judicial landscape in other drastic ways. Justices like O'Connor and Kennedy were instrumental in establishing so-called gay rights in America. Kennedy himself was again the swing vote in a 5–4 decision that redefined marriage in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case so that it now includes same-sex couples. O'Connor also voted against such things as displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses.
Concerned Catholics, however, aren't glum about the possibility of getting an activist judge to replace Kennedy, but they are prudently repeating the words of Christ Who, in Matthew 26:41, warned His disciples, "Watch ye and pray."
Watch the panel discuss the need to pray the right justice gets confirmed in The Download—Supreme Battle.