RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
When President Donald Trump stood up last night to introduce his Supreme Court nominee, he reminded the audience just how important this issue had been to his campaign.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Millions of voters said this was the single most important issue to them when they voted for me for president. I am a man of my word.
MARTIN: Trump's choice of Neil Gorsuch is the culmination of a promise he made to social conservatives. As NPR's Sarah McCammon reports, both supporters and opponents of Gorsuch are watching the future of the court closely.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: One of the big ways Trump won over conservative, religious voters was by promising to pick Supreme Court justices who would restrict abortion rights and protect religious freedom. With the nomination of Gorsuch, many social conservatives feel they're getting what they were betting on. Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List.
MARJORIE DANNENFELSER: We're very excited. This nomination was really the top priority for the entire election.
MCCAMMON: Exit polls in November suggested the makeup of the court was a major motivator for many people and a factor that swung in Trump's favor. In one poll, 56 percent of voters who said Supreme Court appointments were their most important factor voted for Trump. Like many abortion rights opponents, replacing the late Justice Antonin Scalia with another conservative judge was a top goal for Dannenfelser, who served on an advisory group Trump called his pro-life coalition. But Dannenfelser says she doesn't see Roe v. Wade going anywhere right away.
DANNENFELSER: We're getting back to - with our position last summer before Justice Scalia died. But we are certainly one step closer to filling the next seat.
MCCAMMON: Another member of Trump's pro-life coalition, evangelical leader Ralph Reed, was at the White House for the announcement last night.
RALPH REED: This is not my first rodeo, so I know now comes the hard part, which is the confirmation process. But I think President Trump fulfilled a major campaign promise.
MCCAMMON: Reproductive rights advocates are also gearing up for that process. Gorsuch has a history of siding with religious liberty claims from companies like Hobby Lobby, which objected to the contraceptive coverage requirement in the Affordable Care Act. Emily Stewart, policy director at Planned Parenthood, says the organization will fight any attempt to roll back abortion rights.
EMILY STEWART: We are deeply concerned. Neil Gorsuch has an alarming history of interfering with reproductive rights and health and there has never been a more important Supreme Court nomination.
MCCAMMON: President Trump is making the first of what could be several picks on an aging Supreme Court at a time when the nation is bitterly divided on abortion and other social issues, raising the stakes even higher.
Sarah McCammon, NPR News.
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