As the Supreme Court convenes, a new survey shows that more voters see the Court as biased — and say a future Trump nominee would threaten abortion rights .
In the U.S. Supreme Court term that began on October 7, much is at stake. Among the cases the Supreme Court has taken up is the first case dealing with abortion since Trump’s nominees to the Court were confirmed. The case will be decided this term, by the end of June 2020. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Louisiana’s anti-abortion law, it would would leave just one provider of safe, legal abortion in Louisiana — and take the country one step closer to making abortion impossible to access.
An additional eighteen cases related to abortion still sit one step away from the Supreme Court — no surprise, given the Trump administration and Senate leadership’s efforts to pack the federal courts with judges who oppose reproductive rights.
It’s not just abortion: on October 8, the court heard oral arguments in cases on whether federal law protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And the court will consider the Trump administration’s efforts to end DACA as well.
But since the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court — amid a nationwide uproar over Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s credible allegation of sexual assault — voters are watching and paying closer attention.
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Voters See Bias in Supreme Court
Planned Parenthood worked with PerryUndem to survey a total of 2,075 registered voters in June 2019, and asked them how they felt about the Supreme Court. Here’s what we learned:
Voters view the Supreme Court as biased. With Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch on the Court — both of whom have records of voting to restrict reproductive rights and both appointed by Trump —, a conservative majority has become entrenched across the federal judiciary. Voters have noticed this shift and changed their views, becoming increasingly open to the idea of structural changes to the Court. In fact, two-thirds of voters now lean toward term limits for Supreme Court justices.
Perceptions of a politicized Supreme Court are increasing. Among those polled, a majority — 51% — said they think the Court has become more biased, while only 9% considered it less biased.
Attention to the makeup of the Supreme Court has risen. Voters are poised to watch — and speak out — if a vacancy opens on the high court. Compared with voters surveyed during the debate surrounding the Kavanaugh nomination, respondents to the June 2019 PerryUndem poll were 19% more likely to say they would pay “a lot of” attention to news about a nominee — and 15% more likely to say they would contact their senators to voice their opinion on a new nominee
Two-thirds of those polled said they consider it important that the next Supreme Court justice rule to uphold Roe v. Wade, which affirmed access to safe and legal abortion as a constitutional right. Supporters of abortion rights feel more strongly about the next nominee — and are more primed for taking action — than those who oppose rights and access.
The wave of abortion bans passed by state legislatures in 2019 appears to have fueled voters’ willingness to mobilize. Among voters polled who do not want Roe v. Wade overturned, half (51%) say that recent bans in Georgia, Alabama, and other states have made them more motivated to contact their senators about the next Supreme Court nominee.
Given the onslaught of abortion bans in the states, it may come as little surprise that voters were 10 points more likely — compared with those surveyed in 2018 — to view abortion rights as at risk. Voters clearly treat the potential of another Trump appointment to the Court as a risk factor; about two-thirds (65%) of survey respondents considered Trump likely to nominate an opponent of abortion rights and access.
Voters value “control over one’s body.” When responding to a question about words they associate with the Supreme Court and its decisions on abortion access, voters chose bodily autonomy as their primary concern. Forty-four percent of those surveyed — including two-thirds of Democrats (66%), and half of independents (49%) — described “control over one’s body” as the true subject of the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion.
That viewpoint seems to influence how voters perceive a potential Trump nominee to the Supreme Court; among voters surveyed, half named being “in Trump’s pocket” (53%), “anti-women” (51%), “biased” (51%), or “narrow-minded” (49%) as top concerns. Substantial numbers said a nominee who was “politically motivated” (46%) or “too political” (44%) would concern them.
No Abortion Bans. Not Now, Not Ever.
Here’s how you can take action to stop the extreme abortion bans sweeping the country and join the #BansOffMyBody movement.
People look to the courts to protect their health and rights from the attacks attempted by anti-abortion politicians across the country. But Trump has moved swiftly in his campaign to reshape the courts. As of September 19, 2019, Trump had appointed 152 judges to lifetime seats on our federal judiciary. His appointees now account for more than 15% of judges across the federal appellate and district courts — including almost one in four judges on the federal courts of appeals.
With Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch seated on the Supreme Court by Trump, it’s clear that a conservative majority has become entrenched across our judiciary.
But senators can still protect the rights and health of millions of people in the United States by fulfilling their constitutional duty to reject Trump’s extreme judicial nominees. Voters want a Court that respects the right to access sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion — and as this survey shows, voters are watching.
The survey was conducted among a total of 2,075 registered voters between June 18 and June 24, 2019, using YouGov’s online panel. The total sample included 431 Black voters, 417 Latinx voters, and 423 Asian American/Pacific Islander voters.
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