During his campaign, President Trump wasn’t exactly shy when he talked about what he wanted in a Supreme Court justice. Trump specifically said he would appoint “pro-life” judges who would “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade. He also called for people who had abortions to be punished.
So it wasn’t really a surprise when he nominated Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh’s record is clear: if you’re looking for a fifth vote to gut reproductive rights, he’s your guy.
1. Kavanaugh was willing to ignore key Supreme Court precedent to block a woman from getting an abortion.
In the now-famous “Jane Doe” case, Kavanaugh tried to block an undocumented minor in government custody from exercising her constitutionally protected right to have an abortion. Here’s what happened: A 17-year-old woman (Jane) was detained in a federal shelter after crossing the southern border. She was pregnant, and told the shelter staff she wanted an abortion. She completed all the legal requirements for minors to get an abortion in Texas – but the Trump Administration refused to get her the medical care she needed.
The federal government strenuously opposed Jane’s desire for an abortion. She was forced to go to “counseling” at an anti-abortion, religiously-affiliated fake health center. In addition, Jane’s mother was informed about the pregnancy against Jane’s wishes.
Kavanaugh voted to continue to delay Jane’s abortion to allow the government time to try to find an immigration sponsor to supervise her, ruling that none of the government’s efforts put an undue burden on Jane. Thankfully, Kavanaugh was overruled by a court order from the full federal appeals court.
2. Kavanaugh’s own clerks have underlined his dedication to enforcing restrictions on abortion.
As Trump’s SCOTUS short list was being whittled down, Kavanaugh’s own clerks came out to support his potential nomination. In July 2018, one of his clerks wrote that on the “vital issues of protecting religious liberty and enforcing restrictions on abortion, no court-of-appeals judge in the nation has a stronger, more consistent record than Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” promising that he has “fought for his principles and stood firm against pressure,” and that he “would do the same on the Supreme Court.” Between Trump’s conviction that Kavanaugh will overturn Roe and his clerks’ insistence that he’ll toe the anti-Roe line, we should have no doubts about the fate of Roe if Kavanaugh is confirmed.
3. Kavanaugh has sent strong signals regarding his view of Roe.
Just this past September, Kavanaugh gave a speech praising the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, whom Kavanaugh described as his “first judicial hero.” In the speech, Kavanaugh highlighted Rehnquist’s legacy, including Rehnquist’s belief in limiting the “court’s power to recognize unenumerated rights” – in other words, rights not listed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. While Kavanaugh never expressly says he thinks Roe was wrongly decided, he takes the opportunity to telegraph his own skepticism towards Roe. Kavanaugh says that while Justice Rehnquist couldn’t successfully swing people over to his view on Roe, Rehnquist did succeed in “stemming the general tide” of courts recognizing rights that Rehnquist, and by implication Kavanaugh himself, believed “were not rooted in the nation’s history and tradition” – such as the right to obtain an abortion.
So what’s the bottom line?
Brett Kavanaugh poses a major threat to Roe, our reproductive rights, and our basic right to make our own decisions about our bodies. If he is confirmed to the Supreme Court, he’ll roll back our hard-won rights for decades to come.
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