Exactly one week before Chief Justice Warren E. Burger’s retirement was publicly announced (the White House knew in advance of his plan), the Supreme Court gave President Reagan and his aides a reminder of what could be at stake in the selection of his successor. More than anything else in its domestic aspirations, the Reagan Administration wanted a more conservative Court, especially to raise the chances for overruling Roe v. Wade—that despised legacy of the Burger Court. On June 11, 1986, the Court reaffirmed the right to seek an abortion, but this time it was only by the narrowest of margins—5 to 4. That had never happened before. As important as the vote itself was the fact that four Justices, the dissenters, made it clear they were ready to reconsider Roe; thus, a single vote seemed to hold Roe in place.
Rehnquist to Roberts: The "Reagan Revolution" Fulfilled?
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