HHS official celebrates Kennedy retirement with anti-choice activists: ‘We’re just getting started’

WASHINGTON, DC - January 18: HHS Office of Civil Rights Director Roger Severino speaks at a news conference announcing a new division on Conscience and Religious Freedom at the Department of Health and Human Services January 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. The new division, part of the department's Office of Civil Rights, will aide medical professionals who object to certain procedures on religious grounds. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

It’s been less than a week since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, but already anti-women activists are plotting how best to take advantage of a weakened judicial branch in order to undermine access to safe abortions.

Kennedy was long thought to be the crucial swing vote on any legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, having already upheld the landmark decision in 1992. With his departure, Donald Trump will have an opportunity to nominate a second person to the bench, one who figures to be far less sympathetic towards women’s rights.

In case there was any doubt about the administration’s intentions behind filling Kennedy’s seat, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services Roger Severino appeared at the National Right to Life Convention on Thursday in Overland Park, Kansas and assured the crowd of anti-woman activists that the Trump administration was “just getting started.”,

“Our president is fearless when it comes to life and conscience,” Severino added.

If Trump is able to appoint a crucial fifth anti-woman justice to the Supreme Court, the fate of safe abortions for millions of women across the country will be jeopardized. Already, there are several states that have passed unconstitutional laws aimed at criminalizing abortion. Those laws are facing legal challenges, some of which seem likely to end up before the Supreme Court.

Of course, overturning Roe v. Wade will do nothing to end abortion, it will only make it less safe for expectant parents who want the procedure and harder to regulate. Nevertheless, pro-choice activists are mobilizing to try and prevent the appointment of an anti-women justice in the first place.

Several Democrats have suggested they would be prepared to hold up any confirmation process until after the midterm elections, where the party has a decent shot of taking over Congress.

The move wouldn’t be dissimilar from the Republican hijacking of a vacant Supreme Court seat that President Barack Obama attempted to fill in the last year of his administration.

Democrats also hope they will have allies in Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME), two Republican women who have staunchly defended Roe v. Wade in the past.

But their support for the law doesn’t always translate to their votes. During Samuel Alito’s 2007 confirmation hearing, the future justice refused to call Roe v. Wade settled law, and was revealed to have authored a memo in which he suggested the government “should make clear that we disagree with Roe v. Wade.” Both Murkowski and Collins voted to confirm him nevertheless.