Anthony Kennedy on abortion: steady as Jell-O

This fall the U.S. Supreme Court will be tackling partial birth abortion again. Two cases overturning the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 will get a final hearing, and we’ll get to see where our two newest Justices stand on abortion. SCOTUSblog has posted a summary of what’s in dispute. I dug up the published opinions from both Courts of Appeals, so you don’t have to rely on the mainstream media to tell you what’s in them (both are Adobe PDF files):

8th Circuit:
Gonzales v. Carhart
9th Circuit:
Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood
(Kook Warning: this is a Judge Reinhardt opinion!)

Here’s the conventional wisdom on who supports the ban on partial birth abortions:

SCOTUS vote prediction

Kennedy is the wild card here. While he’s pro-abortion in general, he joined the conservatives in the Court’s first crack at partial-birth abortion (too bad there were only three plus Kennedy, because they lost):

The Court’s decision today, in my submission, repudiates this understanding by invalidating a statute advancing critical state interests, even though the law denies no woman the right to choose an abortion and places no undue burden upon the right. The legislation is well within the State’s competence to enact.

Justice Kennedy, dissenting
Stenberg v. Carhart

Kennedy’s dissent encourages pro-lifers and hints that he might join the conservatives again this time around. Unfortunately, it was also written six years ago. Kennedy has been sliding steadily leftward during his tenure on the Court, and it’s anybody’s guess how much “evolving” or “growing” he’s done since 2000. With Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement, he has assumed the role of the swing voter, and that kind of power is very seductive to any Justice with no discernable judicial philosophy.
There’s plenty of reason to worry. In an abortion case eight years before he confronted partial-birth abortion, Kennedy penned this doozy:

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.

The man’s unpredictable. He overturned a state constitutional amendment denying special rights for homosexuals because he deemed it “inexplicable by anything but animus.” Magic 8-ballHe overturned an anti-sodomy law. He agreed with Justice Scalia that juveniles should be eligible for the death penalty … but then he flip-flopped. He opposed the McCain/Feingold muzzle on free speech. He supported government redistribution of private property. He opposed a federal anti-gun-possession law. He supported ending the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election. He upheld Oregon’s institution of doctor-assisted suicide.
Enough! My brain hurts. If anyone can assemble Kennedy’s opinions into a coherent judicial philosophy, it’ll be news to me. For all we know he uses a ouija board to help him decide.
So will Anthony Kennedy object to infanticide again? I can’t shake the sinking feeling that it all depends on how much his wife values those cocktail party invitations from Washington’s liberal “in crowd.”

3 comments

  1. Ben Keeler

    Kennedy is less likely to side with the conservatives this time, IMO, because he knows his vote will be the decider. He has shown he doesnt like to go along with big changes that favor conservatives.

  2. Puddle Pirate

    That’s just what my gut’s been telling me. It’s also why I wish South Dakota had waited to pass their ban on all abortions until after we have five judicial conservatives on the Court. As things stand now, I worry that the SD bill will be tossed out, which will only entrench the Court fiurther behind pro-abortion precedent. SD should have passed a limited ban that could save many lives, rather than a total ban that ends up saving none.

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