President Donald Trump has made some big decisions about who he will choose to replace retiring Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, including a deadline, and what he'll ask about Roe vs. Wade.
Leonard Leo, a Trump adviser on judicial nominations, said liberal groups bring out the abortion issue every time a Republican president gets to make a Supreme Court nomination, including when Ronald Reagan nominated Kennedy in 1987. He also said he would "probably interview six or seven" candidates all together.
While Trump did not make rolling back abortion rights a central plank of his campaign, numerous conservative rank and file want Roe v. Wade overturned and Trump promised to put anti-abortion justices on the Supreme Court.
Trump said he thinks that is "inappropriate to discuss". "You know it wouldn't surprise me if the justice. were concerned that there be a replacement that shared his understanding that the Constitution is not just a Constitution for half the country, but is meant to govern the American people as a whole, and that it contains profoundly important values that the court plays a key role in implementing and safeguarding".
Those victories, coupled with Kennedy's retirement, could embolden the administration's lawyers, who are facing legal challenges on multiple fronts, including over Trump's move to separate families who enter the United States illegally and his plan to rescind protections for "Dreamers", young adults brought to he country illegally as children.
On the current court, in addition to Thomas' outright opposition to Roe, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito have voted consistently to sustain abortion restrictions.
Trump has already appointed one Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, to fill the seat vacated for over a year by the February 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia. "This appointment will have a significant effect on the availability of abortion", Carroll said.
Senator Chris Murphy said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must follow his own precedent, set when he refused to allow a vote on President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland in an election year.
"All we are doing is following the long-standing tradition of not fulfilling a nomination in the middle of a presidential year", he said in a March 2016 interview with Fox News Sunday.
"You see this over and over again and it's the usual rank speculation", Leo said. Among the issues now in the courts are Arkansas' regulation of abortion pills and a Kentucky law that would ban a common procedure for second-trimester abortions.
MS and Louisiana recently passed legislation banning abortion after 15 weeks with limited exceptions.
Unlike Heitkamp, Donnelly and Manchin are Democrats who generally oppose abortion rights and are endorsed by Democrats for Life, the "pro-life voice of the Democratic Party".
Collins wasted no time following Kennedy's announcement to reiterate that she believes Roe v. Wade is "settled law", but a spokeswoman told the Portland Press Herald that Collins "does not apply ideological litmus tests to nominees".
The Senate is bracing for Trump to announce a quick nominee as soon as July 10.
But states have a patchwork of laws, with red states tending to pass more restrictive abortion ones.
A key part of the vetting process will likely be reviewing the judge's history of written opinions, said a person with knowledge of Trump's thinking, who noted that the range of Gorsuch's past opinions impressed Trump.