More than 200 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, all but two of whom are Republicans, clearly declared in a court filing this month their zeal to end abortions outweighs their regard for judicial precedence.
Disappointingly, Washington’s Republican representatives have all joined the call for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn decades of abortion rulings. U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse signed the legal brief. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who has a long history of voting and speaking out against abortion rights, said through a spokesperson that she supports the filing.
Considering Washington state’s leadership in ensuring a women’s right to choose, their action is dissonant. State voters made Washington the first state to allow early-term abortions by referendum at the ballot box. In 1991, voters enacted Initiative 120, which declared a “fundamental right of privacy with respect to personal reproductive decisions” and ensured equitable access to the procedure.
The brief‘s uncompromising argument shows little deference to any attempt to find bipartisan common ground or to live within the boundaries previous court rulings have set out. Instead, the filing reveals just how confident anti-abortion forces have become that the two justices President Donald Trump placed onto the high court will toss out Roe v. Wade and other abortion rulings, no matter how flimsy the justifications.
The case now under consideration challenges a 2014 Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges to at least one hospital within 30 miles. In a deeply religious and rural state, the law would allow only one of Louisiana’s three abortion clinics to remain open.
The Supreme Court already found a near-identical Texas law to be an unconstitutional barrier to abortions. But that case was decided in 2016 — before Trump’s appointments of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch shifted the court to the political right. The brief’s authors clearly regard the current court as a new era. It contends that “Delphic confusion and protean change” in abortion rulings mean it’s time to invalidate Roe v. Wade and allow sweeping abortion bans.
“They’re not hiding the agenda,” said Hannah Brass Greer, chief legal counsel of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. “The agenda is completely outlawing abortion.”
Even if the Supreme Court stops short of overturning prior abortion decisions, this case poses another existential threat to abortion rights. If the Louisiana law survives, Roe v. Wade will lose much of its protective power. State legislatures could make it logistically impossible for many women to access legal abortions, particularly women unable to afford long-distance travel.
By supporting the most extreme and jurisprudence-altering argument, Reps. McMorris Rodgers, Newhouse and Herrera Beutler have shown disregard for American legal norms and rights Washington voters chose to enshrine in law. Voters must hold them accountable for this choice.