After Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is considered the Supreme Court’s swing justice, announced his retirement on Wednesday, fears are mounting over Vice President Mike Pence‘s recent promise to end abortion “in our time.”
Kennedy’s departure at the end of July will pave the way for President Donald Trump to choose a new, undoubtably more conservative successor — which could make the Supreme Court a solidly conservative body for years to come and potentially overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
During his more than 30-year tenure as a Supreme Court justice, Kennedy, 81, has been the key vote on several high-profile issues, including abortion. In 1992, he voted to uphold the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the United States.
Kennedy has been seen as a barrier to efforts to repeal Roe v. Wade, according to CBS News, although the outlet notes that he has sometimes voted in favor of abortion restrictions.
Now abortion-rights activists, politicians and everyday citizens are voicing concerns that Kennedy’s replacement could overturn Roe v. Wade. And some are resurfacing Pence’s February comments to anti-abortion activists, in which he said that legal abortion could “once again” be banned in the U.S. “in our time.”
Speaking at a luncheon in Nashville hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List and Life Institute, an anti-abortion group, the vice president declared that “life is winning in America once again” and said the Trump administration would continue to push measures to restrict abortion access.
“I just know in my heart of hearts that this will be the generation that restores life in America,” he said. “If all of us do all we can, we can once again, in our time, restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law.”
After news broke of Kennedy’s retirement, author Stephen King tweeted about Pence’s comments, writing Thursday: “Welcome to THE HANDMAID’S TALE. I keep thinking of some woman in red forced to call herself Ofmike.”
In another reference to The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian novel in which women have been stripped of all their rights, another tweeter wrote: “Did you read about pence saying abortion will end in the next few months… welcome to Gilead.”
“Sending women back decades,” another critic said of Pence’s comments.
Many tweeted that even if abortion were to be criminalized, women would still find other, potentially dangerous and life-threatening means to obtain them.
One Twitter user said, “Pence: Women dying from back-alley abortions & high-risk pregnancy in the U.S. will return ‘in our time.’ Fixed your headline. You’re welcome.”
“Pence means he wants to end legal abortion. Illegal abortion will flourish in its place,” said another.