U.S. Supreme Court

As SCOTUS prepares to hear abortion case, both sides hope to sway Kennedy by using personal stories

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Anthony Kennedy can expect a full-court press from both pro-abortion rights and anti-abortion advocates as the Supreme Court prepares to hear its first abortion case in almost a decade.

Reuters reported on Monday that both sides have been gathering personal stories and accounts in an effort to sway the justice, who is widely expected to be the swing vote in the upcoming case. The Court is still taking briefs for the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, which is scheduled for oral argument on March 2. The case will determine the legality of a restrictive Texas law that requires abortion clinics to have hospital-quality facilities and for doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

According to the article, both pro-abortion rights and anti-abortion groups are taking a page from the same-sex marriage playbook, which put forth numerous personal testimonials to help the justices identify with an issue that they might not have been very familiar with. In that vein, the Center for Reproductive Rights has been reaching out for months to find compelling testimonials from women who had abortions and did not regret it. For instance, Heather Busby, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas in Austin, told her story for one of the amicus briefs, saying that she might not have been able to finish college or go to law school if she hadn’t had an abortion when she was 22.

Wendy Davis, a former Democratic Texas state senator who memorably led a filibuster against the law in question and ran for governor in 2014, told Reuters that she also added her experience to the brief. Davis has had two abortions for medical reasons, Reuters reports. “Did I grieve tremendously? Yes, I did, in an indescribable way,” Davis said in an interview with Reuters. “But never did I regret it.”

Meanwhile, anti-abortion groups are also collecting personal stories to put in their briefs. According to Reuters, lawyer Allan Parker of the San Antonio-based Justice Foundation is asking women to talk about how abortions hurt them on his foundation’s website, “Operation Outcry.” One woman identified only as “Cindy H.” said her uterus was punctured during an abortion in a Texas clinic in the 1990s. “I thought I could have bled to death,” she told Reuters.

Perhaps the biggest reason for the focus on Kennedy is that his voting record on abortion has been somewhat unpredictable and inconclusive. While he has generally supported a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, he has frequently voted for restrictions and authored the court’s most recent abortion-rights decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, a 2007 ruling that upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban of 2003.

In that opinion, Kennedy cited an amicus brief that argued women frequently regretted getting abortions. “While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained,” Kennedy wrote in 2007.

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