The country’s most prominent anti-choice organizations have demanded that Senate Republicans stymie any and all nominees to fill the vacant seat of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
At least one influential anti-choice group has obliquely referenced conspiracy theories that Scalia didn’t die of natural causes, but was killed.
Scalia, who was a deeply religious Catholic, stridently opposed reproductive rights. Anti-choice groups have joined Republican leaders both in praising Scalia and calling for his seat on the Court to be filled only after November’s presidential election.
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“With the passing of the esteemed Justice Scalia, America stands at a crossroads. Will she choose the path of fascism or freedom? We are just one Obama appointee away from a totalitarian government,” Troy Newman, president of the radical anti-choice group Operation Rescue, said in a statement Monday.
Newman urged the Republican-controlled Senate to block any of Obama’s Supreme Court nominees.
“Two years ago, the GOP promised the American people that, if elected, they would thwart Obama’s radical leftist agenda. This is the GOP’s moment. Will it shine as a light for liberty in this dark moment or will that light be extinguished by political appeasement?” said Newman, who was detained by Australian authorities in October after a legislator there expressed concern that Newman would contribute to the “harassment and intimidation” of people seeking abortion care.
The Operation Rescue statement alluded to allegations made by conspiracy theorists that Scalia’s death was part of a nefarious plot, and called for “a full inquiry into Scalia’s death.” The group claimed an investigation is necessary to resolve “unanswered questions regarding his passing.”
Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life (AUL), released a statement Saturday calling Scalia’s death “a tragic loss for our country” and saying that the jurist was an “unparalleled intellectual force, who valued the Constitution over the whims of popular culture.”
AUL is an anti-choice organization that has helped lawmakers in Republican-controlled state legislatures pass hundreds of laws to restrict reproductive rights.
Yoest called for the Senate to confirm Scalia’s replacement after November’s election. “His loss is tragic, and we hope that when it comes time for the Senate to vote on his replacement, that a worthy successor who can pick up his banner can be found after the election,” Yoest said.
Alan Sears, president of the anti-choice legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement that it is “unlikely that a new justice will be installed prior to the election of our next president.”
In a hyper partisan political climate, with both parties embroiled in competitive presidential primaries and the Supreme Court set to hear some of its most high-profile and high-stakes cases in years, the stage is set for a dramatic showdown.
President Obama announced Sunday night that he would move forward with his “constitutional responsibilities” and name a replacement for Scalia’s vacant seat on the court in “due time.”
“There will be plenty of time for me to do so, and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote,” Obama said.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released a statement after Scalia’s death Saturday in which he praised Scalia as an “unwavering champion of a timeless document” who was a “giant of American jurisprudence.” McConnell also called for Scalia’s seat on the court to be filled after the presidential election.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President,” McConnell said.
Democrats have been quick to challenge Republicans’ suggestions that Obama should not nominate a replacement for Scalia, and have been sharply critical of the proposition of Senate Republicans blocking any nomination by the president.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) released a statement saying “the President can and should send the Senate a nominee right away.” Reid said that the Senate has a “responsibility to fill vacancies as soon as possible” and said that it would be “unprecedented in recent history” for the Supreme Court seat to be vacant for a year.
“Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate’s most essential Constitutional responsibilities,” Reid said.
Of the candidates on stage at the Republican presidential debate Saturday night in South Carolina, five of six said the president should either not nominate a justice or the Senate should block any nominee.
Jeb Bush said that the president has “has every right” to nominate a new justice, but said that he doesn’t believe that Obama will present the Senate with a “consensus” nominee.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who called Scalia an “American hero” in a post on Twitter, said during the debate that the Senate should “stand strong” against any nomination. “We’re not going to give up the U.S. Supreme Court for a generation by allowing Barack Obama to make one more liberal appointee.”
“I think it’s up to Mitch McConnell and everybody to stop it. It’s called delay, delay, delay,” Donald Trump said during the debate.