Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist is calling for the impeachment of two sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, for misrepresenting their position that 1973’s Roe v. Wade case was settled law.
The Supreme Court on Friday stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion, a fundamental and deeply personal change for Americans’ lives after nearly a half-century under Roe v. Wade. The court’s overturning of the landmark court ruling is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
“Today’s ruling makes clear that Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh lied to Congress when they testified, under oath, that in their view Roe v. Wade was settled precedent,” Crist said.
“Perjury is a crime,” Crist added. “If perjury is found to have occurred, the correct remedy is impeachment.”
Reporting of each Justice’s testimony suggests that their positions have changed since their confirmation hearings.
Here’s what Gorsuch said during his confirmation hearing:
Gorsuch took the uncontroversial line that Roe is a precedent. Precedent is the "anchor of law," he said. "It is the starting place for a judge."
"I would tell you that Roe v. Wade, decided in 1973, is a precedent of the United States Supreme Court. It has been reaffirmed," he said. "A good judge will consider it as precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court worthy as treatment of precedent like any other."
One telling exchange came with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who asked about a book Gorsuch wrote in 2006 advocating against legalizing assisted suicide.
In the exchange, Gorsuch acknowledged that the Supreme Court had held that a fetus is not a person for the purposes of the 14th Amendment's due process clause, a legal underpinning of Roe v. Wade.
"Do you accept that?" asked Durbin.
"That is the law of the land. I accept the law of the land, senator, yes," Gorsuch replied.
Here’s what Kavanaugh said at his hearing:
"Judges do not make decisions to reach a preferred result. Judges make decisions because the law and the Constitution as we see them compel the results," he said in his opening remarks.
In particular, much was made of a private meeting between Kavanaugh and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who said the nominee had told her he considered Roe to be "settled law."
But Kavanaugh stopped short of repeating that line in his hearing, instead focusing on Roe's status as Supreme Court precedent.
"It is settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court, entitled the respect under principles of stare decisis," he said. "The Supreme Court has recognized the right to abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade case. It has reaffirmed it many times."
Additionally, Kavanaugh said it can be appropriate for the court to revisit prior decisions. "I listen to all arguments," he said. "You have an open mind. You get the briefs and arguments. And some arguments are better than others. Precedent is critically important. It is the foundation of our system. But you listen to all arguments."
For decades, as other Southern states restricted abortion access, Florida remained relatively open to the procedure, protected by a privacy amendment in the State Constitution that the Florida Supreme Court ruled 30 years ago applied to a woman’s right to choose.
But under Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican with presidential ambitions, the state’s high court has become more conservative. And in April, in advance of the expected federal ruling, DeSantis signed a law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, severely curtailing access to the procedure, which had been allowed up to 24 weeks. The restrictions, which do not include exemptions for pregnancies that result from rape, incest or human trafficking, were modeled after the ones in Mississippi that were upheld on Friday in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.
In a statement on Friday, Mr. DeSantis praised the Supreme Court’s decision.
“The prayers of millions have been answered,” he said, adding that Florida “will work to expand pro-life protections,” without going into detail.
In statements of their own, a few of the state’s legislative leaders also alluded to passing future legislation restricting abortions, though they stopped short of pledges to try to ban the procedure altogether.
The two leading Democrats vying to unseat Mr. DeSantis, Representative Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried, the Florida agriculture commissioner, blasted the decision.
“If you are angry, stay angry,” Ms. Fried said in a statement, urging voters to reject Mr. DeSantis at the polls. Mr. Crist warned that Mr. DeSantis would seek to outlaw abortions entirely if he is re-elected in November.
The vast majority of abortions performed in Florida take place by 12 weeks of pregnancy, according to data from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.
The new law takes effect on July 1. The American Civil Liberties Union has sued to block it, saying it violates the state’s privacy protections. A South Florida synagogue has also sued, saying it violates the state’s right to freedom of religion.
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