“Can you think of any laws that give the government the power to make decisions about the male body?”
This is the mic-drop question California Senator Kamala Harris posed to Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation proceedings Wednesday. His answer was, of course, that he couldn’t think of any because, of course, there aren’t any.
Kavanaugh, however, appears to be in favor of laws that give the government power to make decisions about the female body. In the past, he’s questioned whether Roe v. Wade is actually “settled law.” In hearings this week, he’s tap-danced around his position by calling the decision an “important precedent” that has been “reaffirmed many times,” yet flat-out refusing to respond to inquiries about whether or not it is “correct law.” (And remember, Donald Trump did promise he would appoint anti-abortion judges.)
Abortion has been legal my entire life, and I’ve always thought the issue was as “settled” as a woman’s right to vote and own land. But a 2015 documentary called She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry opened my eyes to the time, just a little over a decade before I was born, when ordinary women, like me, were learning how to perform abortions in a secret underground-railroad-type of organization. That this could become reality once more is terrifying.
Abortion has been legal my entire life, and I’ve always thought the issue was as “settled” as a woman’s right to vote and own land.
Because really, it matters very little what Kavanaugh says now, as he attempts confirmation, regarding Roe v. Wade—once he’s on the bench, he could easily become the fifth vote needed to overturn the law (replacing swing-voter Justice Anthony Kennedy). Then, abortion legality would be determined by state—and nearly half are at risk for criminalizing the act.
And while Kavanaugh’s evasive about abortion’s overall legality, he does seem to be in favor of greater restrictions around the procedure—many point to his recent dissent on a decision that allowed abortion access to a 17-year-old immigrant as evidence of how he’ll rule on abortion-centric cases moving forward. Increased restrictions can make it just as difficult as an outright ban to get an abortion. Remember those Texas laws that forced over half of the state’s abortion clinics to shut down a few years ago, and which were eventually overturned by the Supreme Court in 2016? Justice Kennedy cast the deciding vote on that case, and with Kavanaugh sitting in his place, it’s probable such state-imposed restrictions would stand.
Kavanaugh’s not exactly pro birth control, either. In hearings Thursday, he described contraceptives as “abortion-inducing drugs,” and though it’s not clear if he thought he was referring to birth control methods (pills, patches, etc.) or emergency contraceptives, his wording is misleading regardless—neither type of contraceptive terminates a pregnancy.
My wariness of Kavanaugh goes beyond his typically-conservative obsession with regulating my lady parts. In hearings this week, he avoided answering questions related to the Affordable Care Act, specifically whether or not he would uphold its provisions protecting pre-existing conditions. As many states challenge the ACA in cases that will likely make their way to the Supreme Court, this is unsettling. Plus, as someone who’s in the past utilized Planned Parenthood’s affordable services for routine health care—as in, check-ups, not abortions—it worries me that the Supreme Court will soon decide whether or not to hear cases around state funding for the organization. If Kavanaugh’s presented with such a case, I’m not exactly confident he’ll protect the pro-choice organization.
The idea that a male-dominated Supreme Court can decide the fate of millions of uteruses feels more wrong than ever in 2018.
Sadly, despite low approval ratings—due to his stance on the above issues and others—it’s likely Kavanaugh will be confirmed. Republicans are a majority in the Senate, and it’s not expected any will go rogue and vote against him. Plus, it’s possible some red-state Democrats will go his way. So what can you do if you, like me, are seriously concerned about the (potentially long-term) health implications of Kavanaugh’s appointment?
You can call your representatives—the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the senators who may swing. You can also vote in November, vote in 2020, and vote in every election thereafter, because how you vote will impact future appointments. (Even if no one leaves the bench anytime soon, the number of justices is not set in stone but rather determined by congress, which technically means a majority vote could add seats to the existing court. I can hope, right?) Specifically, you can vote for women, because our representation clearly needs to be more representative. The idea that a male-dominated Supreme Court can decide the fate of millions of uteruses feels more wrong than ever in 2018, a fact illuminated ever so effectively by a female politician.
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