Over 200 members of Congress press Supreme Court on Roe v. Wade

More than 70% of Senate Republicans, and more than 85% of House Republicans, are urging the Supreme Court to roll back the clock to before 1973.
Pro-choice and pro-life activists demonstrate in front of the the Supreme Court during the 47th annual March for Life on Jan. 24, 2020.
Pro-choice and pro-life activists demonstrate in front of the the Supreme Court during the 47th annual March for Life on Jan. 24, 2020.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

Two months from tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in an important abortion access case out of Louisiana, and it's a safe bet the court's Republican-appointed justices, who represent a five-member conservative majority, will use the case to "set the stage for the formal reversal of Roe v. Wade."

There are a couple of hundred opponents of reproductive rights in Congress that want the high court to do exactly that. This week, as NBC News reported yesterday, they put the request in writing.

Over 200 members of Congress, most of them Republican men, asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to consider overturning two landmark abortion rights cases ahead of oral arguments in a Louisiana abortion case scheduled for March.

The lawmakers -- 38 senators and 168 House members -- filed an amicus brief urging the court to "reconsider" the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortions across the nation, as well as the court's 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe v. Wade and barred states from placing an "undue burden" on access to abortions.

Though nearly all of the signatories were Republicans, there were two exceptions: Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who gained notoriety by opposing Donald Trump's impeachment, and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), who's taking a big risk joining with the GOP on this issue ahead of a competitive 2020 primary in his suburban Chicago district.

Nevertheless, more than 70% of Senate Republicans, and more than 85% of House Republicans, are urging the Supreme Court to roll back the clock to before 1973. NARAL Pro-Choice America's Ilyse Hogue said in a statement yesterday, "The anti-choice movement is no longer trying to hide their real agenda. They are gunning to end Roe."

That is unambiguously true. This is a cards-on-the-table moment, and the members who put their names on the court brief this week are making their intentions plain.

Vox's Katelyn Burns added yesterday, "[B]eyond the specifics of this case, the brief represents an ideological statement for Republicans as they enter what is expected to be a bitterly fought election year. And judging by the brief, the party has its sights set squarely on eliminating the right to legal abortion."

There is value in the clarity. For decades, opponents of reproductive rights have faced a judicial arithmetic they could not overcome: there simply weren't five justices willing to overturn Roe. They couldn't win in the court of public opinion -- most Americans do not want Roe overturned -- and they couldn't win in the Supreme Court, either.

Donald Trump and congressional Republicans haven't been much help on the former, but they believe they've addressed the latter, elevating Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the nation's highest bench.

And it's against this backdrop that over 200 congressional opponents of reproductive rights are pressing the justices, with little subtlety, to end the constitutional protection altogether.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog