Will President-Elect Trump Overturn Roe v. Wade?

By Sarah B. Boxer

Take one of the most controversial issues in the nation. Add the most controversial president-elect of the modern era. What do you get? It remains to be seen.

In his first interview since his surprising electoral victory, President-elect Donald Trump continued to stress his campaign promise to appoint Supreme Court justices who are pro-life, and reaffirmed that he hopes to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

When pressed by “60 Minutes” to predict what would happen if the landmark Supreme Court ruling was, in fact, overturned, Trump told co-host Leslie Stahl that the decision on whether or not abortions would be legal would revert back to the states. Ergo, said Trump, some women would “have to go to another state” if they wanted the procedure.

But what is the likelihood that Trump will be able to change the makeup of the court? Currently, there is one vacancy, caused by the sudden death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

During his campaign, Trump released a list of justices he would consider to fill such a vacancy.

“One vacancy is not enough for President Trump to appoint justices to overturn Roe v. Wade,” says Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center.

“President Trump would need a second appointment to overturn Roe. We can’t be sure that the existing conservative justices would vote to overturn Roe. Justice Clarence Thomas has made it clear that he is willing to overturn Roe. But Justices Samuel Alito and Chief Justice Roberts haven’t explicitly said one way or another.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, there are currently 42 states that allow institutions to refuse to perform abortions, and 27 states that require a woman seeking an abortion to wait a specified period of time, usually 24 hours, between when she receives counseling and when the procedure is performed.

If Roe is overturned, Rosen says that states could regain some of the power they once had, and the right to create even more restrictions.

Trump is a former Democrat and Planned Parenthood supporter who famously described himself to Tim Russert as “very pro-choice” in 1999. But he was very consistent in pro-life rhetoric during his campaign, at one point telling MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that that there should be “some form of punishment” for women who seek abortions if the law is overturned.

“Of course, there’s a chance that President Trump could surprise us. All presidents have sometimes surprised [us] with their Supreme Court appointments,” says Rosen.

“President Ronald Reagan crusaded against Roe v. Wade as a candidate, then he appointed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was pro-choice in her background, as well as appointing Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was a moderate conservative, both of whom voted to uphold Roe v. Wade. But it all comes down to the kind of justices President-elect Trump appoints, so therefore, if he sticks to the list, there’s a decent chance Roe could go. If he goes off the list, then it’s anyone’s guess.”