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Abortion Debate Takes Center Stage In Partisan Fight Over Trump's Supreme Court Pick

President Trump chose Judge Brett Kavanaugh (far left) as his U.S. Supreme Court nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. But, that decision is causing some mixed feelings.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders' twitter

President Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee is already causing partisan divides among Republicans and Democrats. That fight is also making its way to the Sunshine State.

When U.S.Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy annnouned his retirement last month, it set off a storm.

A Ronald Reagan appointee, he was known as the swing vote—at times voting with liberal or conservative justices.

Now, that Trump has picked Brett Kavanaugh as Kennedy’s replacement, some aren’t too happy with that choice.

“We believe that Justice Kennedy’s replacement must be a fair-minded constitutionalist who values equality and justice for all people, not just the wealthy and the powerful,” said Ray Seaman, during a Thursday protest at the state Capitol.

Seaman is with Progress Florida’s “Why Courts Matter Coalition.”

“President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court should concern every single Floridian,” he added. “Whether you care about access to health care, reproductive rights, voting rights, protecting our environment, LGBT equality, or criminal justice reform, the fate of them all hang in the balance. We cannot let President Trump take over the court for the next 40 years with a rubber stamp justice like Brett Kavanaugh.”

Since his nomination, Kavanaugh has drawn criticism from liberal-leaning groups for some of his past stances as an appeals court judge.

For example, he was in the minority when the appeals court decided last year to allow an undocumented immigrant in custody to seek an abortion.

It’s opinions like that, that scare abortion rights activists….especially since President Trump vowed during a 2016 presidential debate to overturn Roe V. Wade—a Supreme Court decision 40 years ago allowing women to have access to abortion across the U.S.

“Do you want to see the courts overturn Roe. V. Wade,” asked the Moderator.

“Well, if we put two or another three justices on, that will happen and it will happen automatically in my opinion because I am putting pro-life justices on the court,” Trump replied. “I will say this, it will go back to the states and then, the state will then make a determination.”

“Women across this country deserve access to safe and legal abortion, and we’re going to oppose any nominee who’s pre-determined on this issue,” said Missy Wesolowski.

Wesolowski is the Statewide Director of Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates. She’s protested against Republican-led efforts in the Florida legislature to put abortion restrictions in place, and some have even faced court challenges.

In a recent protest at the State Capitol, she and other progressive groups called “Roe V Wade” the law of the landand should not be overturned.

But, some in the conservative camp don’t see that happening even if Kavanaugh is put in place. North Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz is one of them. Still, he didn’t rule out the possibility that there could be rulings supported by pro-life advocates.

“Some of the pro-life initiatives that we’ve seen in state legislatures…for example, the pain capable legislation, the heart beat legislation that the constitutional validity of those faith-based actions could go before the court and could receive more favorable treatment—bringing our country to a more pro-life position—but it wouldn’t necessarily have to fundamentally alter the holdings in Roe,” he said, during a recent conference call.

Still, whether Kavanaugh actually will get the role remains to be seen.

He first has to get U-S Senate approval, and it’s unclear if he’ll have enough votes. Since it’s an election year, Republicans have set their sights on Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl) and whether he’ll sign off on Kavanaugh.

And, while Florida’s Republican Party Chairman Blaise Ingoglia acknowledges there are pro-choice Republicans, he says it would galvanize the base if Nelson does not vote to seat Kavanaugh—based on his abortion-related stances.

“If you had a bunch of people, Senate Democrats like Bill Nelson, coming out and say they did not want to confirm Judge Kavanaugh just based upon that issue, that would definitely motivate a big portion of the base,” Ingoglia said, on the same conference call with Gaetz.

As for Senator Nelson, he hasn’t really said whether he’ll agree to confirm Kavanaugh, only stating, he’ll make his decision after meeting with Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court pick.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.