Kennedy likely to be swing vote in abortion case
Last year, Justice Anthony Kennedy was the deciding vote in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. This year, he could swing the court on abortion and birth-control coverage.
For years, Kennedy has been the divided court’s pivotal vote in polarized social issues. He could be again this year when the court considers cases involving the Obama administration’s workaround for not-forprofit religious groups on the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate, and how far states can go in regulating abortion providers. The abortion case arises from a Texas law tightening regulations on abortion clinics that likely would cause most to close.
That case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, is seen by many as a test of whether the Supreme Court’s conservative majority is willing to let states substantially roll back the constitutional right to abortion that the court recognized in Roe v. Wade in 1973. And it could demonstrate the importance of this year’s presidential election in determining whether American women continue to have that right. The next president could tip the court’s political balance, since Kennedy turns 80 in July, while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 83 and Justice Antonin Scalia will be 80 in March.
Douglas Laycock, a University of Virginia law professor, said it would be “stunning” if Kennedy is not the swing vote in the abortion case. He is generally seen as a pragmatic and sometimes unpredictable conservative.
The four other conservatives, including Scalia, almost certainly will support the Texas rules, while the four liberals, including Ginsburg, almost surely will rule against them.
Laycock predicts Kennedy will be the deciding vote for the Obama administration on the contraception issue.
Anthony Kennedy Position Associate justice, U.S. Supreme Court
Tenure in job Confirmed in 1988