Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is set to retire at the end of July, giving President Trump an opportunity to fill yet another seat in the body—and sparking feminist activism to keep the gains of the last century secure in the face of uncertainty. Their rallying cry? #DitchTheList.
President Trump has released a short list of 25 candidates to replace Kennedy—stacked with candidates who have demonstrated a desire to roll back some of the most important civil liberties and rights, including abortion and voting rights. DitchTheList.com compiled the histories of the nominees and how they could impact the rights of Americans. “It’s clear that the judges on Trump’s list can’t be trusted to approach the cases they might hear with an open mind,” the website states. “Their very inclusion on the list owes to the fact that Trump is confident they will rule the way he wants. These judges would pose a threat to longstanding Supreme Court precedents and would not act as moderates.”
Feminist lawmakers and activists agree. “The President’s list of potential nominees are complete non-starters,” Sen. Kamala Harris said in a press release. “They are conservative ideologues instead of mainstream jurists. We cannot and will not accept them to serve on the highest court in the land which is supposed to stand for equal protection under the law and justice for all.”
At a press conference, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue demanded that abortion rights be a line in the sand for any nominee to fill Kennedy’s seat. Seen as a sometimes invaluable swing vote on social issues, Kennedy’s retirement could endanger the Court’s standing on issues of abortion and birth control for generations. “This is why five million women and friends marched on January 21,” she told a crowd in Washington, D.C. “We are prepared, we stand with the Senators here today—we will do whatever we need to do to safeguard women’s rights and move towards a future of freedom of choice.”
Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal is also demanding that any nominee Trump puts forward wait to be confirmed until after the upcoming midterms. “We have every right to demand that the Senate wait to vote on a Supreme Court nominee until after the November elections,” Smeal wrote in an email to members. “In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to even hold a hearing for Obama nominee Merrick Garland even though the election was nine months away. All we are asking is for the Senators to follow the Mitch McConnell rule, just like they did in 2016.”
In a segment on MSNBC, analyst Steven Kornacki has observed that if one Republican defects from their party, provided that all Democrats vote in a bloc, the Senate could successfully block a Trump nominee. Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, stated earlier this week that she will not vote for any nominee who has displayed hostility towards Roe v. Wade, indicating that the right to safe abortion is a key factor in upcoming decision—but she also voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch, who now sits on the Court and does not support abortion rights. Coat hangers have been sent to the senator’s office in an effort to maintain political pressure on her to uphold her promise. The hashtag #HangersforCollins has swept through social media. NARAL even started an ad campaign specifically geared at Collins in her home state.
Trump is expected to announce his nominee for Kennedy’s seat Monday. He has promised that his nominee will oppose the Court’s ruling in Roe. “With so much on the line, it is critical that Senators wait to vote on a nominee until after the November elections,” Smeal wrote to members later this week. “Voters deserve to have a say on a Justice who could roll back generations of rights for women, workers, LGBTQ people and people of color.”