It's been a throwaway line in presidential campaigns for years, but this time it is on the ballot.
The empty seat at the Supreme Court coupled with President Donald Trump’s political move to reinvigorate social conservatives in key states provided a new frame for Trump’s case for a second term.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and the spark over the Roe v. Wade debate has also animated supporters of abortion rights at least as much.
If Trump is able to install his nominee in that seat, both sides agree there’s a better chance than ever that Roe v. Wade — the 1973 decision established a nationwide right to abortion — could be overturned or gutted.
“We have been apprehensive for years, but this is more worrisome — this is a seismic shift,” said Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project.
During his 2016 campaign, Trump, who had previously expressed unqualified support for abortion rights, won over skeptical anti-abortion leaders with multiple pledges to combat abortion, including choosing Supreme Court justices open to dismantling Roe v. Wade.
Now, with Trump hoping to fill a vacancy for the third time and give the nine-member court six conservative justices, that pledge has new import.
“It is at least conceivable for the first time that we have a majority that would overturn Roe, and the battle would return to the states,” said Andrew Bath, executive vice president of the Thomas More Society, a conservative public interest law firm.