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What does another conservative Supreme Court justice mean for Roe v. Wade?

Some concerned ruling could be overturned, but scholar say it's unlikely
What does another conservative Supreme Court justice mean for Roe v. Wade?
Posted at 4:28 PM, Sep 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-22 16:28:07-04

President Donald Trump plans to announce his Supreme Court nominee on Saturday. He has said it will be a woman and she will be conservative.

If the nominee goes through, it would give conservative justices a 6-3 majority over their more liberal counterparts.

That sets up talk about abortion, but the Roe v. Wade debate isn't all about the Supreme Court.

“Enough lower courts have not decided what they think about this,” said Carol Sanger, a professor at the Columbia law school. “We, the Supreme Court, doesn't like to lead on a particular issue until the lower courts who have trials and so on have thought about it.”

Under a conservative majority, the Supreme Court has ruled on an abortion case. Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts sided with a ruling that kept abortion clinics open by not requiring abortion doctors to have nearby hospital admitting privileges.

The high court already ruled on a similar case out of Texas.

“There is a special doctrine called stare decisis, which means when you have a case and it’s like a previous case, look to that previous case and say how did that come out,” said Sanger. “And unless there is a very, very strong reason to change that decision, you follow precedent, you follow what happened the last time this issue came up.”

Sanger says enough lower courts have to rule and be split on the decision to make it to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court would need to decide it wants to take up Roe v. Wade before courts before them. Sanger believes that's unlikely to happen.

“It seems pretty clear that he doesn't want to be known as the guy who had Roe knocked out under his chief justice-ship,” said Sanger.

Both Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch said they accepted Roe v. Wade as the law of the land during their nomination hearings.

Sanger says just because the justices on the court change, it doesn't mean they change laws all over again.