Planned Parenthood and the Supreme Court
This article originally appeared in this issue of the WSR: 2018-07-11

Even before President Trump announced his nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, Planned Parenthood was busy issuing demands.

You see, Planned Parenthood actually thinks it runs this country. Any time it is turned back by the people, Planned Parenthood runs to the courts to have its wishes imposed. The Washington Examiner reported a comment by Dawn Laguens, executive vice president at Planned Parenthood, demanding, “"The Senate must only confirm a justice who affirmatively declares that they believe the U.S. Constitution protects individual liberty and the right of all people to make personal decisions about their bodies and personal relationships -- including the right to use contraception, the right to have an abortion, and the freedom to marry whom they choose." When I was a young man working in the garment district of New York City, they had a word for this kind of demand. “Chutzpah.”  

Following President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, Laguens issued the following statement:

We oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and call on the Senate to do the same. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: with this nomination, the constitutional right to access safe, legal abortion in this country is on the line. We already know how Brett Kavanaugh would rule on Roe v. Wade, because the president told us so. We take Trump at his word that Brett Kavanaugh would overturn Roe v. Wade and get rid of the Affordable Care Act. The balance of the Supreme Court is at stake—we cannot allow it to be tilted against the constitutional right to access abortion. Generations of women, especially women of color, will be affected. And generations of people have grown up only knowing a country where they have the right to access safe, legal abortion. We cannot allow our children and grandchildren to have fewer rights than we do today.

While Laguens is doing her best to incite hysteria, the fact is that the confirmation of this single justice is not sufficient to overturn Roe v Wade. Many conservative pundits have pointed out that, of the existing eight justices on the court, only one—Clarence Thomas—has publicly said he is in favor of overturning Roe.

So, the addition of one more conservative justice will not be enough.

The fact is, just overturning Roewill not be enough. A simple striking down of Roewill not make abortion illegal. It will simply give the individual states the right to decide for their state. Some states will clearly ban abortion, while others will keep or make it legal.

As the confirmation process plays out over the next few weeks (or months), it is important that we don’t buy into Planned Parenthood’s ranting. This particular nomination will not spell the end of Roe.

But the addition of another conservative justice might move us forward to the real solution, as Judie Brown described in her commentary on Monday:

The only way that every abortion could be ended in America would be if the Court addressed the question that Justice Harry Blackmun posed when he wrote the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In that decision he stated: “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.”

While it also true that Blackmun went on to say that at that time, in 1973, the word “person” did not apply to the preborn child in his opinion, that was 45 years ago, and much has changed in the intervening years, including the advancement of science and technology. While the 1973 Supreme Court was not interested in the science, we would hope that a current Court would be, should the question come before them.

It is safe to say that the personhood argument in the context of a specific legal case would be on solid ground. Such a case would challenge the Supreme Court to address the question of the facts about the human being—his biological beginning until birth—based on scientific facts.

Clearly, those who brought such a case would have to be prepared for the tough questions on contraception, in vitro fertilization and so on, but it is not impossible to envision such an argument being effective and winning the day for the babies.

To truly end abortion in the United States, let’s all use every opportunity we can to talk about the personhood of the preborn child. The confirmation process that is currently underway is an opportune time to do this.

Planned Parenthood is trying to control the conversation by making this confirmation all about Roeand abortion. Let’s make it about personhood of the preborn. That is the real battle.