The Supreme Court, Scalia, and 2016

By Nancy L. Cohen, February 15, 2016

The political revolution is coming — from the anti-choice religious right.

Scalia’s death is sure to ignite the fervor of anti-choice, evangelical white Republicans and mobilize them for the 2016 election. Scalia was the religious right’s hero and intellectual powerhouse—a staunch opponent of LGBT rights and marriage equality, women’s rights and reproductive rights.

Before Scalia’s death, the anti-choice activists looked at 2016 as their moment to overtrurn Roe v Wade and put Planned Parenthood out of business for good. Sure, they were mobilized to elect a Republican, just about any Republican.

But now, every gain they’ve made to restrict abortion and birth control access is in danger of being wiped out. If a Democrat is able to appoint a new Supreme Court justice, Roe v Wade is preserved, as is the constitutional right to marriage. And most if not all of the 300-plus anti-women’s health laws passed since 2010 will be ruled unconstitutional an stricken from the books. The budding movement for so-called religious freedom exemptions, which give cover to discriminatory actions toward LGBT Americans, will wither.

One day after Scalia’s death, Ted Cruz dropped an ad in South Carolina hitting Donald Trump on his past support on Planned Parenthood. He knows what he’s doing. Trump was always vulnerable among the core of the GOP base—anti-choice, anti-LGBT, white evangelicals. With so much at stake, they are unlikely to give Trump a pass on his past enthusiasm for abortion rights.

When I interviewed the great-granddaughter of Republican president Herbert Hoover for my book Breakthrough, she described the anti-choice, anti-LGBT activists as “like the 800-pound gorilla” in the GOP. “The pro-life activists have a monopoly on the primary process,” she said. We were talking about why there were so few Republican women officeholders, and she traced it to the pro-life litmus test imposed on potential women candidates and an unwillingness to call it out. But the observation holds true at all levels of elections. She continued, “They’re just terrified of enraging the base, of like awakening a beast.”

With Scalia’s death, the beast has been awakened. Those of us who passionately support a women’s freedom to decide when and if to have a child, who believe in LGBT Americans rights to marry and be free from discrimination, take note.

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Nancy L. Cohen