Stephen Breyer’s Unique Legacy on Abortion

His Supreme Court successor should keep in mind the power of digging deep into data — and reminding all the justices how their rulings would affect real Americans.


Justice Stephen Breyer is scheduled to leave the Supreme Court just as his conservative colleagues are poised to dismantle a key part of his legacy: the court’s approach to a right to choose abortion.

Breyer’s name might not immediately come to mind when anyone thinks about abortion rights. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the late feminist icon, was arguably the court’s most eloquent defender of reproductive rights. Justice Sonia Sotomayor has taken on that role in the current court. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who long cast the swing vote in abortion cases, helped both to save abortion rights in 1992 and to water down protections for them, holding that abortion regulations would be unconstitutional only if they created an “undue burden.”