On Monday, responding to reports that Democrats were threatening to pack the Supreme Court if a pro-life Mississippi law is upheld by the Supreme Court, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton fired back with one word to describe the Democrats’ plans: “Blackmail.”
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) May 24, 2021
The Court agreed this week to hear the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenges a Mississippi law passed in 2018 that bans abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy with a few exceptions. Amy Howe of ScotusBlog explained:
When the Mississippi legislature passed the law at the heart of the case in 2018, Jackson Women’s Health Organization – the only licensed abortion provider in the state – went to court to challenge the law’s constitutionality and block the state from enforcing it. A federal district court agreed with the clinic, reasoning that the Supreme Court’s cases do not allow states to ban abortions before a fetus becomes viable, which occurs at around 24 weeks of pregnancy. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld that decision.
In the summer of 2020, Mississippi asked the Supreme Court to decide whether bans on pre-viability abortions are unconstitutional. The clinic wanted the Supreme Court to stay out of the matter.
Democrats, concerned that the Mississippi law is a precursor to the repeal of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, reacted to the Court deciding to hear the case by espousing packing the Court, as The Hill reported.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) threatened, “It will inevitably fuel and drive an effort to expand the Supreme Court if this activist majority betrays fundamental constitutional principles. It’s already driving that movement. Chipping away at Roe v. Wade will precipitate a seismic movement to reform the Supreme Court. It may not be expanding the Supreme Court, it may be making changes to its jurisdiction, or requiring a certain numbers of votes to strike down certain past precedents.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I) echoed, “It really enlivens the concerns that we have about the extent to which right-wing billionaire money has influenced the makeup of the court and may even be pulling strings at the court.”
Sen. Ed Markey (D-M.A.) said, “Trying to legislate with a GOP-packed Supreme Court and the Jim Crow filibuster is always 1 step forward, 3 steps back.”
Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, warned that expanding the Court was on the agenda: “Groups like ours are doing work every day of the week, 52 weeks a year to build support for that proposal. … Part of our strategy here is to build support slowly but surely and grind out as much consensus around these ideas as we can for now and then be ready for if and when a big moment grabs the public attention comes. I think [the Supreme Court’s] next term is shaping up to be that.”