NEW YORK – Planned Parenthood on Wednesday launched a campaign to protect access to abortion as widely as possible even if the Supreme Court, with the addition of conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, moves to curtail a woman's right to undergo the procedure.
"We know that we'll need an ironclad network of states and providers across the country where abortion will still be legal and accessible, no matter what happens at the Supreme Court," said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood's executive vice president.
Most of the states with the strongest abortion-rights policies are on the West Coast and in the Northeast. Because of that geography, the new plan underscores the importance of Illinois, and envisions an aggressive expansion of Planned Parenthood services there.
Many anti-abortion activists hope that Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court might lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a nationwide right to abortion. Such a reversal would mean states could set their own policies on abortion; at least 20 are considered likely to impose near-total bans.
Earlier this week, a prominent anti-abortion lawyer, Americans United for Life senior counsel Clarke Forsythe, published an article in a law journal laying out a hypothetical Supreme Court opinion through which Roe could be overturned.
Forsythe argued that policies on abortion – like other aspects of public health – should be determined by the states, not the federal government.
"The states can preserve the sweeping outcome of Roe, sustain current limits, lift current limits, or enact greater limits," he wrote in the Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy. "And they can do this with accountability to the people through regular elections."
Even if the Supreme Court does not overturn Roe, it now has a 5-4 majority of conservative justices who are expected to look more favorably on state laws that undermine the law through various types of restrictions on abortion. Abortion-rights groups have identified 13 abortion-related cases that are pending in federal courts and could advance to the Supreme Court.
Planned Parenthood, which is the largest provider of abortions in the U.S., said it had been working on its contingency plan since before President Donald Trump took office. Trump promised during his campaign to appoint Supreme Court justices who would be open to overturning Roe.
A key part of Planned Parenthood's plan calls for expanding services in states where abortion is likely to remain legal and accessible. Longer business hours, additional staff and new clinics are among the possible steps.
Women living in states where abortion becomes increasingly inaccessible will be offered support in traveling to non-restrictive states, according to the plan. It also envisions wider use of telemedicine abortions, which can be used by women living long distance from any abortion clinic.
Legislatively, the plan calls for working to strengthen protections for abortion access in states where the procedure remains legal and combatting efforts by anti-abortion legislatures elsewhere to impose further restrictions.
Another component of the plan calls for working to reduce the stigma attached to abortion. Planned Parenthood said this would involve working with the music, fashion, movie and television industries, and launching public awareness campaigns.
"We know this is a winnable fight," Planned Parenthood said. "No matter what Donald Trump, Mike Pence, or Brett Kavanaugh may say, each of us deserves the right to control our own bodies, including the right to decide if and when to become a parent."
Anti-abortion leader Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List contended that Planned Parenthood's announcement reflects a focus on abortion, more so than the array of other services it provides to millions of Americans, including birth control, sex education and cancer screenings.
"Two things are clear from the strategy Planned Parenthood has outlined: first, their business is abortion, not 'women's health,'" Dannenfelser wrote in an email. "Second, they are playing defense, which speaks to the effectiveness of the pro-life movement."