Just as the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that would could affect abortion providers, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) appeared to threaten two of the court’s justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, during a speech at a nearby pro-abortion rally.
“I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh: You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions,” Schumer said in the March 4 speech, pointing his finger toward the Supreme Court building behind him.
It’s not clear what “price” the justices would pay or what would “hit” them in the Senator’s view. Supreme Court justices are appointed for life and have broad latitude to decide cases as they see fit.
Schumer’s spokesman, Alex Nguyen, said that the senator was talking about Republicans.
“It’s a reference to the political price [Republicans] will pay for putting [Gorsuch and Kavanaugh] on the court and a warning that the justices will unleash a major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision,” he told The Epoch Times via email.
Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement that “threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous.”
The case before the court was brought by black pro-life organizations arguing that “unqualified and uncredentialed abortion providers” have a long history of “disproportionately harming black women.”
It stems from a Louisiana law enacted in 2014 that requires abortionists to have “active admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure takes place.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Louisiana law, which officials say might only lead to short delays at one of three abortion-providing clinics in the state.
But the Supreme Court put enforcement of the law on hold last year. Chief Justice John Roberts, part of the conservative bloc on the court, joined with four liberal justices in that vote.
A similar law in Texas was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016. Experts testified to the court that most surgical abortion complications that require hospitalization “occur in the days after the abortion, not on the spot,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his opinion on the case (pdf).
The state’s lawyers couldn’t provide the court any instances where the regulation “would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment,” Breyer said.
Anti-abortion advocates have for decades looked for ways to restrict abortions, which have been significantly deregulated by the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.
The efforts have gained momentum in recent years in light of President Donald Trump’s appointment of conservative justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. With them, the court has a 5-4 conservative-leaning majority, raising pro-life advocates’ hopes that it may rule on abortion issues differently.
Some states with Democrat-led legislatures have responded by working to relax their abortion regulations, including New York and Virginia.
Chief Justice John Roberts responded to Schumer’s comments in a statement sent to The Epoch Times on March 4, calling the remarks “inappropriate” and “dangerous.”
“This morning, Senator Schumer spoke at a rally in front of the Supreme Court while a case was being argued inside. Senator Schumer referred to two Members of the Court by name and said he wanted to tell them that ‘You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You will not know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.'” the chief justice wrote.
“Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous. All Members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter,” he added.
Matthew Vadum, Janita Kan, and Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.
This article has been updated with a statement from the Supreme Court.