Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson's Views On Abortion, Roe V. Wade And Precedent

As Blavity previously reported, the Supreme Court seems poised to strike down abortion rights based on a leaked draft ruling on a case challenging the central tenet of Roe v. Wade. The unprecedented leak has put a bright national spotlight on the justices and their views on Roe and abortion rights. Recently-confirmed Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was questioned and examined on these issues during the Senate hearings on her nomination. Although Jackson is not part of the decision being drafted by the current justices, the court’s reopening of the previously settled issue of abortion rights makes it much more likely that future cases on the topic will come while Jackson is on the bench.

Jackson has not ruled on abortion but has been involved in related cases

Despite her extensive legal career, Jackson has never ruled directly on the issue of abortion rights. The selection by Democratic President Joe Biden and confirmation from mostly Democratic votes implies that her leanings are in line with the party’s pro-choice stance. Planned Parenthood’s support for her nomination also aligns with this logic.


Furthermore, Jackson has been a part of several cases related to abortion access, and the positions that she and her colleagues took in those cases are consistent with a pro-choice, Roe-affirming position. In 2001, Jackson helped draft a brief in a Massachusetts case supporting restrictions on anti-abortion protests at clinics. As a district judge for the United States Court of Appeals, she condemned a Trump administration policy to cut funding for teen pregnancy prevention as “arbitrary and capricious.” These rulings and the support Jackson has received indicate a dedication to reproductive rights and health.

Jackson believes Roe v. Wade is settled law

As has been the case with all Supreme Court nominees in recent years, Jackson was questioned by both parties on her stance on abortion rights during her confirmation hearings. Democrats questions on the issue related to the legal aspect of abortion rights and how past rulings would impact Jackson’s approach to future cases. As she has with recent Republican nominees, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked Jackson a series of questions concerning if the rulings of Roe and the follow-up case Planned Parenthood v. Casey would guide her approach to future cases. Jackson confirmed that she believed that Roe was a “settled law.”

Republicans, meanwhile, focused on the underlying beliefs that guide pro-life positions. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) quizzed Jackson directly on her religious beliefs, leading her to eventually remind him that the Constitution prohibits religious tests for any federal office. Meanwhile, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) unsuccessfully attempted to get Jackson to make a declaration on when life begins. Though she stated that she had a personal view on the matter, she asserted that such personal beliefs will not and should not guide her judicial approach to the issue.

When asked by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) how she would react if the court overturned Roe v. Wade, Jackson simply said that she would treat such a ruling in the same way that she would regard “any other precedent.” While judges generally lean toward deferring to precedent in deciding cases, they are not required to do so, and the draft ruling on abortion rights explicitly disregards past precedent in arguing for the overturn of Roe.

Jackson will not rule on the current case, but will impact future decisions

Right-wing conspiracy theories have suggested that Jackson was responsible for the court leak, even though she has not yet been seated and thus would have no access to the document that was given to the press. Another theory floated by Sen. Blackburn is that Biden will try to place Jackson on the court before the retirement of Stephen Breyer, the judge she is replacing, to “balance” the court and get an extra vote for policies like abortion rights. Again, such a move would not be possible under the current rules governing the Supreme Court, and no proposal to expand the court is being considered.

In short, Jackson will not have a say in how this current case will be decided. But her presence on the bench will help determine how any future cases related to abortion and other important rights issues will be decided.