Before the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, this year’s Texas abortion-rights case was destined to become a judicial landmark for women’s rights in America.
But with Scalia’s seat empty and the court returning to work, the feared result is happening: Vital cases are being heard by an undermanned bench whose ideological leanings are, in many cases, split somewhat evenly between conservative and liberal justices.
This Texas case could lead to the closing of majority of abortion clinics in that state, thus limiting options for women to have a procedure that is legal in the United States. It also illustrates one of the negative byproducts of Senate Republicans’ refusal to consider any of President Obama’s possible Supreme Court nominees.
Cases before the Supreme Court deserve to be heard by a fully manned, nine-justice bench. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, is choosing extreme partisan politics over what’s best for the Supreme Court and, ultimately, the Americans affected by the justices’ rulings.
“President Obama still has every right to nominate someone on his way out the door,” McConnell said Wednesday. “The Senate also has every right to withhold its consent.”
If that happens — and it seems it will — the American people will be subjected to rulings decided by a court robbed of full expertise. Regardless of whether this year’s cases are heard by a conservative- or liberal-leaning Supreme Court, the nation needs to have its most powerful judicial body at full strength. Republicans are selfishly putting their party above that of the Supreme Court and the law it oversees.