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State abortion laws open possible Roe v. Wade challenge

Alabama and Missouri enacted laws last week outlawing abortion under almost all circumstances, setting up a legal battle that may challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling on abortion. And in other political news this weekend, Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash accused President Trump of “impeachable conduct." Special correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Two new state laws restricting abortion also topped political debates this weekend. This past week Alabama and Missouri enacted laws outlawing abortion under almost all circumstances setting up a legal battle that may challenge the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade the 1973 ruling that women have a constitutional right to abortion. Here with some perspective on that and more special correspondent Jeff Greenfield who joins us now from Santa Barbara. Jeff efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade have gone on for a long time. Why is this any different?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Because in the past legislatures have tried to accommodate restrictions with Roe. They've done things like require doctors to have hospital admitting rights, they've made it harder for clinics to stay open they've required waiting periods, but they've claimed that this is consistent with a woman's right to abortion. These laws you've referenced flatly go up against Roe. No abortions after a fetal heartbeat detected which is like six to eight weeks. No exceptions for rape or incest, Draconian criminal penalties for doctors, they are in fact saying to the court we know these laws are in conflict with Roe. We did this because we want you to overturn Roe flatly once and for all.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    You know the Supreme Court when they've had this option in front of them has been pretty careful to try to thread a needle and not try to challenge the overall right flat out why the confidence now when you have folks from Tomi Lahren to Pat Robertson saying these laws are too extreme as they're written today?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Two words: Brett Kavanaugh. The anti-abortion folks think they now have a five-vote majority on the court, now that Kavanaugh has replaced Justice Kennedy, to overturn Roe. Now the only justice who's explicitly said I want to overturn Roe is Clarence Thomas. But reading what some of these justices have said in the past they believe they now have the votes to at least have a plausible chance not just to accommodate Roe with restrictions but to flatly overturn it. And this five-person majority in the past has been fairly willing if not eager to overturn other longstanding precedents in favor of policy decisions they prefer.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And there was a case just about precedents this week or just a couple of weeks ago

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Yeah, it has nothing to do with Roe on the surface it's about whether a citizen of one state can bring another state into his state's court to sue him. But what's got the pro-choice community unnerved is that the opinion written by Justice Thomas seemed to be very casual about overturning precedents. This is a 40-year-old law and it led one dissenter Justice Pryor to this a publicly ask 'what's next?' And there's a lot of belief that the court's attitude toward precedent is going to put Roe versus Wade in some danger when that case reaches the court.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    The problem with rolling back precedents as well that works both ways for both parties.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Indeed the same liberals who really want the Supreme Court to respect the Roe precedent are eager for a future court to overturn Citizens United. The campaign finance decision to overturn Shelby County which gutted the Voting Rights Act. So your position on precedent often depends on whether you like the precedent in the first place.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Alright. Let's also talk a little bit about a Republican that's making some news a lone voice Justin Amash a member of Congress who has broken with his party and said that he's read the Muller report and he thinks that there's enough there for grounds for impeachment.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Right. I think we should be careful. Understand the context. Congressman Amash has been the most critical Republican about Trump from the get go. He's often suggest that he may run as a third party independent against Trump. And the contrast with Watergate is once again striking. Back then, plenty of Republicans were willing to question Nixon.In fact seven of the 17 Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted for one article another of impeachment so far of the two hundred and fifty five Republicans in the House and Senate. This Congressman Amash is the only one to come out and say I think this may be impeachable. Republicans saw what happened to people like former Senator Flake, former Senator Corker, former Congressman Sanford who have gone up against Trump and we're going to have to wait and see whether this is the canary in the coal mine or just a one off.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Alright, Jeff Greenfield joining us from Santa Barbara tonight. Thanks so much.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Thank you.

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