In late June, Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his plans to retire from the bench. This set a fight in motion over the future of the court and gave President Donald Trump the opportunity to appoint a second justice.
News of Kennedy’s retirement was met with panic, upset and general distress within the women’s health activist and reproductive rights community. According to Time, Kennedy co-authored the 1992 opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey which upheld core tenets of Roe v. Wade and cast a swing vote in 2017 on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which overturned Texas restrictions on abortion providers.
Kennedy was by no means left-leaning but cast a number of important votes which were vital to reproductive rights. Without his moderate position on the bench, the previous balance will be skewed in the conservative direction.
During his campaign, Trump made a promise to that he would only appoint a justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade, which recognized the constitutional right to privacy “is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” With Kavanaugh, Trump is fulfilling that commitment.
Prior to nominating Kavanaugh, Trump stated he would not ask potential candidates about their opinions on Roe v. Wade, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t read between the lines to ensure his pick would follow suit with his goals. According to the National Women’s Health Network, Kavanaugh’s track record on reproductive rights makes it clear that he will aid Trump in his assault on women’s health and rights, and see to it that Roe v. Wade is reversed.
Last year, Kavanaugh sided with a decision in Garza v. Hargan that would have allowed the Trump administration to further delay a young immigrant woman from having an abortion she wanted. According to the National Women’s Law Center, Kavanaugh accused the majority of creating a new right to “immediate abortion on demand.” This is a phrase that has long been a rallying cry for anti-abortion extremists.
In the 2016 case, Priests for Life v. Department of Health and Human Services, Kavanaugh sided with religion over a woman’s right to access contraceptive services when he dissented from the decision to uphold the requirements of the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), supporting employers who didn’t want to provide birth control for religious reasons.
Kavanaugh’s potential appointment isn’t just a threat to women’s health and reproductive rights — it’s a threat to many marginalized groups in America. Not only is Kavanaugh likely to undermine affordable health care, but based on his past, he is likely to put the rights of women, immigrants and the LGBTQ+ community at risk.
In the months to come, the Senate will either confirm to reject Kavanaugh as the new justice. We cannot allow someone as close-minded and prejudiced as he to have a lasting impression on our country. Call your senators now at 202-224-3121 and tell them how you feel to keep this man off the bench.
Abigail Miller is a UF journalism and political science major. Her column comes out Fridays.