WASHINGTON, D.C., March 5, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fired back against Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for comments he made Wednesday warning the Supreme Court not to render a pro-life verdict in its current abortion case.
Oral arguments began Wednesday over Louisiana’s requirement that abortion centers make arrangements for admitting women to nearby hospitals in cases of life-threatening complications. The abortion industry’s attorneys argue the law is no different from the Texas law the Supreme Court struck down in 2016’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt; pro-lifers argue that Hellerstedt was not only wrongly decided but inapplicable to Louisiana’s situation.
During a pro-abortion rally outside the Supreme Court, Schumer had a message for President Donald Trump’s two additions to the Supreme Court, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
“I wanna tell you, Gorsuch, I wanna tell you, Kavanaugh: you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price!” the Democrat leader said. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
Trump and Chief Justice John Roberts were among those who responded to the statement with strong disapproval:
This is a direct & dangerous threat to the U.S. Supreme Court by Schumer. If a Republican did this, he or she would be arrested, or impeached. Serious action MUST be taken NOW! https://t.co/WqQUbyzaJU
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2020
BREAKING from Chief Justice Roberts: pic.twitter.com/qO5PuHgLjr
— Shannon Bream (@ShannonBream) March 4, 2020
The next day, McConnell took to the Senate floor to address his Democrat counterpart’s words, Fox News reports.
“There is nothing to call this except a threat,” the GOP Senate leader said. Responding to a Schumer spokesman’s follow-up claim that he was referring to Republican lawmakers rather than the judges he named, McConnell said, “if he cannot even admit to saying what he said, we certainly cannot know what he meant. At the very best his comments were astonishingly reckless and extremely irresponsible.”
“I should not have used the words I used; they didn't come out the way I intended to,” Schumer himself responded on the Senate floor, insisting he was referring only to political consequences rather than physical harm. “I'm from Brooklyn. We speak in strong language,” he said, suggesting that “strong language” was warranted by the so-called threat to “women’s rights.”
“As the highest ranked Democrat in the Senate, it is intolerable that Schumer would issue direct threats by name to two Supreme Court Justices if they did not vote his way on this case,” Operation Rescue president Troy Newman responded. “I call on Chuck Schumer to resign. Anyone who can make those kinds of direct and intimidating threats against the nation’s highest court is not fit to serve, and probably belongs behind bars.”
The Louisiana case is likely to at the very least impact the Hellerstedt precedent, which has been used to invalidate a broad range of modest abortion regulations as “undue burdens” on women. It remains to be seen whether the court takes the opportunity to make a broader determination on the underlying legitimacy of Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which force all fifty states to permit most abortions. In January, more than 200 members of Congress signed a brief urging the court to use the case as an occasion to reconsider Roe.
Roe is largely defended not on its legal merits (numerous pro-abortion legal minds, including Ginsburg herself, have acknowledged the ruling’s flaws), but on its status as precedent, with the contemporary interpretation of the stare decisis doctrine holding that Roe’s lengthy history staying on the books grants it added weight. Justice Clarence Thomas has forcefully rejected such arguments; it remains to be seen how Roberts or President Trump’s two SCOTUS appointees, Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, will weigh Roe’s precedent versus its substance.