WASHINGTON -- Democrats on Capitol Hill have been sounding the alarm ever since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court.

  • Liberals in Congress worry Roe v. Wade would be at stake under a more conservative court
  • Justice Anthony Kennedy often sided with liberals on abortion rights
  • Kavanaugh would move the court to the right 

“If anyone believes that Judge Kavanaugh or anyone else on the list would uphold Roe v. Wade, then I have a bridge to sell you,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, during a recent speech on the Senate floor.

Schumer and other liberals in Congress worry the landmark 1973 decision is at stake under a more conservative court.

For years, Kennedy served as the doorstop on restrictions to abortion rights, often siding with the liberal wing of the court. Kavanaugh would move the court to the right.

However, how likely is it that a more conservative court will outright overturn Roe v. Wade? Matt Rom, a professor at Georgetown University, says not very.

“I think they’d be more content to let the states gradually erode abortion rights, to gradually make abortions harder to get, and rarer to find,” he said.

Even after 1973, states slowly whittled away at abortion rights. The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights think-tank, says in 2017, 19 states adopted 63 new restrictions on abortion. That could only accelerate under a more conservative court that may be less likely to intervene.

“I think the strategy among the states is, restrict, restrict, restrict. Let it play out in court,” Rom said.

Liberal lawmakers from Republican-controlled states are concerned. That includes Rep. Alma Adams, who served in North Carolina’s General Assembly for two decades.

“They did everything they could to impede the progress that we made as women on our rights, particularly our rights to health and the decisions we make about our bodies,” said Adams, D-North Carolina.

If the court does one day decide to overturn Roe v. Wade, that will not make abortion illegal. It will just remove legal protections, opening the door for states to outlaw it.

“We would expect New York, California, other liberal states to have very, very open access to abortion,” Rom said. “But some states - Mississippi, Arkansas, Idaho - would ban it entirely.”

Meaning abortions would still be available in the United States, but individuals may have to cross state lines to legally obtain one.