A fired-up Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., appeared to issue a vague warning toward Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh on Wednesday, during a rally held as the court heard arguments in a high-profile abortion case.
At the rally hosted by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Schumer noted that the case, June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, is the first “major” abortion case since President Trump’s court picks have been on the bench. The dispute, dealing with restrictions over who can perform abortions, involves a Louisiana law similar to one in Texas that the court ruled unconstitutional in 2016, before either Trump justice was on the Supreme Court and before conservatives held a 5-4 majority.
“I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price!” Schumer warned. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
Video of the remarks quickly circulated on social media, with Republicans casting the warning as a threat against two sitting Supreme Court justices.
Schumer did not explain what “price” this would be as far as the justices are concerned. But reached for comment, his office said in a statement to Fox News: “It’s a reference to the political price [Republicans] will pay for putting them on the court and a warning that the justices will unleash a major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision.”
During the rally, Schumer did go on to describe how Republican lawmakers could be impacted.
“We will tell President Trump and Senate Republicans who have stacked the court with right-wing ideologues that you’re gonna be gone in November, and you will never be able to do what you’re trying to do now ever, ever again!” he said. Earlier in his address, Schumer had accused Republican legislatures of “waging a war on women,” and said reproductive rights are “under attack in a way we haven’t seen in modern history.”
This is not the first time a Democratic senator issued vague warnings toward the Supreme Court. In August, a group of senators led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., filed a brief in which they accused the court of being politicized, calling it “not well” and warning that if it does not “heal itself,” it could be “restructured.” This was taken as a warning that the Democrats would attempt to pack the court by increasing the number of justices and loading the bench with liberals once a Democrat is in the White House.
The case before the court is part of a larger effort by red states to pass laws regulating abortion to test how supportive the new justices will be of precedents such as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which formed the basis for abortion being legal.
The law in question requires abortion doctors in Louisiana to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in case a patient experiences complications during or after a procedure. Those backing the law argue that it regulates abortion providers similarly to how other medical providers are regulated by the state while also ensuring doctors are competent. Opponents say that it is targeted at abortion providers with the goal of shutting them down, citing a 2016 case out of Texas in which the Supreme Court invalidated a very similar law.
The court’s opinion in the 2016 case, Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, said the law placed an undue burden on women seeking abortions because it would significantly reduce the number of available facilities in the state.
During Wednesday’s oral arguments, Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts questioned whether Lousiana might be different from Texas in terms of the practical effect the law would have.
“Assume all the doctors who currently perform abortions can obtain admitting privileges, could you say that the law still imposes an undue burden, even if there were no effect?” Kavanaugh asked.
Roberts suggested other states may have different standards that might be constitutional.
Gorsuch did not speak during the arguments.