While considered conservative, Kennedy was the swing vote on several cases, including Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a 2016 case that ruled that Texas couldn't put certain restrictions on abortion services that were an "undue burden" to patients. He was the swing vote in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, a 1992 ruling in which the court said government cannot impose an "undue burden" on women seeking to end a pregnancy before a fetus is viable.
President Donald Trump promised supporters he would only nominate US Supreme Court candidates who are against Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that gave women legal access a safe abortion. Many reproductive health experts worry that Roe v. Wade could some day be overturned.
Dr. Anne Davis, an obstetrician/gynecologist and the consulting medical director of the reproductive health advocacy group Physicians for Reproductive Health, saidthat pretty much all of her patients Thursday talked about the retirement and what it could mean for women's health. "People are rattled," Davis said.
Conversations around IUDs spiked on Twitter after Kennedy's retirement announcement on Wednesday. Some women posted to encourage others to get long-term birth control immediately or to offer up information about their experiences with the devices.
This is not the first time for the discussion; after Trump's election in 2016, many women posted about their IUD plans on social media. Between Trump's election and early January 2017, the number of women trying to get into Planned Parenthood to get an IUD went up 900%, Cecile Richards, then-president of the organization, told CNN.
Davis recalled the day after the election, noting that she was sitting at her desk and the phone wouldn't stop ringing. "People kept calling for an appointment, saying they want to make sure their birth control is set, worried about losing insurance coverage, worried about the future," she said. Today's concern from her patients felt similar to that time. "They aren't just worried about access to abortion; with this retirement, there is a lot more at stake for women's health. I'm really worried about it."
Planned Parenthood said Thursday it was too soon to tell whether more requests were coming in for IUDs since Kennedy's retirement announcement.
On Twitter this week, some women urged others not to put off getting an IUD.
Others also encouraged men to get their "tubes snipped."
Kennedy "was the vote that was keeping Roe v. Wade the law of the land," said Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's chief legal analyst. "That is done. Roe v. Wade is going to be overturned."
Toobin expects states to begin passing laws that would challenge Roe v. Wade.
There have been cases over the years that have eroded complete access to abortion, such as the 1990 decision Hodgson v. Minnesota, in which the court ruled on a law requiring two-parent notification for a minor's abortion, and the 2006 decision Gonzales v. Carhart, which allowed a law to stand that restricted certain abortion procedures.
Chief Justice John Roberts has supported greater restrictions on abortion, although he has consistently referred to court precedent.