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Democrats, Abortion Rights Groups Say It's Time to Expand the Supreme Court

The announcement comes on the failure of the Senate to codify abortion protections for the second time.

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Veronica Escobar watched in horror as then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used his power and influence to keep a Supreme Court seat vacant for 293 days in 2016 and 2017, because Barack Obama was the one trying to fill it. At the time, Escobar was a local government leader in El Paso, Texas, with eyes on a congressional run. Surely, she thought, this state of politics wouldn’t still exist by the time she made it to Washington.

Now, Escobar is a U.S. Congresswoman, and she’s joining a growing chorus of voices demanding to expand the Supreme Court. “At one point I just made the decision that there was no going back from the depths of the lack of integrity that was sustaining the court,” Escobar told Jezebel. “I think it is absolutely reasonable given the circumstances. And I think, in fact, it is absolutely necessary, given the fact that we now have a Supreme Court willing to do anything to achieve its political ends.”

On Thursday, Escobar and other Democratic lawmakers welcomed nearly a dozen state-level abortion rights groups to the battle to expand the Supreme Court—a policy proposal once considered unthinkable. “It is unconscionable that we wouldn’t see leaders at the administrative or at the congressional level, do everything they possibly can to protect the real people, pregnant people, women and families, particularly black folks, people of color, people trying to survive on low incomes in tough places like Missouri,” Pro-Choice Missouri executive director Mallory Schwarz told Jezebel. “They have the power to do something. Right now, it’s unfathomable that they wouldn’t.”

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The Senate, notably, failed to codify the right to abortion access and provision for the second time earlier this month.

Polling shows a plurality supports court expansion. The Judiciary Act of 2021 has 56 co-sponsors, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) who signed on this week. By contrast, the Senate bill has only two co-sponsors alongside Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA): Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tina Smith (D-MN).

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Schwarz said the post-Roe reality in Missouri is not sustainable. “We know the courts won’t save us, with the way the courts are stacked in our own state and now at the federal level,” Schwarz told Jezebel. “We don’t have the luxury of time.”

Schwarz knows she and her organization must take the long view. “We know that we’re playing a long game. We know that we’re not going to flip enough seats in 2022 or 2024, just like we knew that in 2020, to end our veto-proof supermajority in the next five years, maybe 10,” she told Jezebel. “There are actions that our leaders can take. And if they don’t take them, they need to know that they are choosing not to help those most in need and most at risk when the Roe decision is overturned.”