On the evening of July 9, 2018, in front of a crowd of eager listeners and millions of television viewers, President Trump announced his nomination for the new Supreme Court Justice—Brett M. Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh, who currently serves on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, is set to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who has served on the Supreme Court since 1988. According to the NY Times, Justice Kennedy “held the swing vote in many closely divided cases on issues like abrogation, affirmative action, gay rights, and the death penalty.”
The cheering crowd and Republicans alike greeted the nomination with applause and excitement. Such excitement was because Kavanaugh’s position on the Supreme Court would undoubtedly push the entire Court into a more conservative direction. For others, however, the announcement was nothing short of nerve-wracking. Enlisting a more conservative Justice could significantly alter the balance of the Court. Many Democratic leaders, such as Chuck Schumer (D-NY), were unhappy with the nomination. Shortly after the announcement, Schumer stated that he “[would] oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything [he] has.”
So why is this as big of a deal as people are making it out to be?
After the nomination, things about Kavanaugh’s past actions and beliefs came into question by many—and rightfully so. In 2017, Kavanaugh blocked a lower court’s order requiring the government to assist an undocumented woman entering the States with an abortion. Kavanaugh has also disagreed with certain decisions by the D.C. Circuit Court which support the Obama administration’s birth control benefit. He believes that employers have the ability to deny women access to no-copay birth control coverage. Due to these actions, people across the nation immediately feared that women’s reproductive rights would be threatened if Kavanaugh's nomination was confirmed.
Just as feminism movements are on the rise, it seems that one simple nomination could halt all ongoing efforts. The concern with reproductive rights being brought to light in a conservative-dominated court is that women’s voices will be silenced.
One of the biggest fears of all of this is the case of Roe v. Wade and whether or not this new conservative court could overturn it. The 1973 case of Roe v. Wade determined that a woman’s right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy protected by the 14th Amendment. This decision by the Supreme Court was meant to protect women and provide them with the basic liberty they deserve: the choice to do what they'd like with their own bodies.
At the end of the day, the purpose of the Supreme Court is not for it to be a political playground; rather, it is intended as an intellectually fair space where matters can be discussed and decided upon in order to ensure all people receive the liberties they are entitled to by way of their being human. The Court serves as a system of checks and balances. Yet, when the Court becomes too politicized with certain Justices, the true essence of the Court risks dissolution.
And without our liberties, what really is there?
According to an article by Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider and educational advocate of care for women, men, and young people, “[Just last year], Judge Kavanaugh has already ruled to limit access to safe, legal abortion.” The article continues to explain that President Trump has made it very clear that Kavanaugh would “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade.
People like Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) fear that women will seek out illegal abortions if the Supreme Court overturns the infamous case. Not only would this option present an array of physical dangers and health hazards, women would also ultimately lose the right to care for their own bodies.
As a result of all the controversy and unanswered questions surrounding Kavanaugh and the issue of women’s reproductive rights, extreme backlash on social media as well as protests outside of the White House led by Planned Parenthood occurred. This is in addition to an online petition already circulated by the organization.
Although the nomination of Kavanaugh has prompted distress for a lot of people, the one positive thing it has accomplished is bring the issue of women’s liberties to the forefront. It is not entirely logical that a group of males are entrusted to deliberate about what women can and cannot do with their bodies. Arguably, if the roles were reversed, people would be enraged.
Due to people’s differences in opinion, stemming from either personal or religious beliefs, there will always be a debate regarding whether or not women should have the right to an abortion or contraceptives. Truly, however, the larger issue at hand is that no one—especially a group of men—should have the ability to discern a woman's accessibility to these opportunities.
For everyone to be equal, women must have the right to care for their own bodies.
Note: The author has asked that their identity be withheld from this article.