Why Priests for Life support Judge Kavanaugh's nomination

Why Priests for Life support Judge Kavanaugh's nomination
© Greg Nash

The initial hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have concluded, and before the confirmation vote begins, it’s imperative that our nation spend this time sifting through what actually happened, separating the fact from the fiction and the theater from the reality.

Priests for Life and our case against the ObamaCare contraception mandate loomed large in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings because as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Kavanaugh sided with us. It’s nice to be in the news, but much of what was reported was abortion advocacy, not news. 

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Our case was one of the first filed against the unjust mandate that sought to force us to supply objectionable drugs, devices and procedures to our employees.

We ultimately prevailed after the case, with which six others were consolidated, was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The government’s so-called accommodation — which would require us to a sign a form relinquishing our responsibility and then allowing others to provide the objectionable drugs to our employees — still left us complicit.

In her questions to the judge, Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDem senator: Judiciary Committee doing 'railroad job' against Kavanaugh accuser Teen girls pen open letter supporting Kavanaugh accuser: We imagine you at that party and 'see ourselves' Senate Dem: It's 'bulls---' for Republicans to say they have done all they can to contact Kavanaugh accuser MORE, (D-Hawaii) was either being disingenuous or else she simply does not understand the nature of our objection to the mandate and its accommodation. She said it “defies logic” that filling out a two-page form was a substantial burden on us.  Filling out the form was not the burden; agreeing to step aside while our employees received these objectionable drugs and devices was.

Our case did not fare well at first in the Court of Appeals, and in fact were denied our request for a hearing before the full court. In his dissent to this denial, Judge Kavanaugh wrote:

“But what if the religious organizations are misguided in thinking that this scheme — in which the form is part of the process by which the Government ensures contraceptive coverage — makes them complicit in facilitating contraception or abortion? That is not our call to make under the first prong of RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act). The Supreme Court has emphasized that judges in RFRA cases may question only the sincerity of a plaintiff's religious belief, not the correctness or reasonableness of that religious belief.”

Judge Kavanaugh did not say he believes what we believe; he merely stated that it is our right to believe it.

When the judge used the term “abortion-inducing drugs” in his answer to a question from Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate NY Times, McCabe give Trump perfect cover to fire Rosenstein, Sessions Live coverage: Cruz, O'Rourke clash in Texas debate MORE (R-Texas), abortion advocates in and out of the Senate reacted as we have come to expect. They resorted to lies.

Judge Kavanaugh was quoting from our case when he used that phrase, which Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSenate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle MORE (D-Calif.) knew before she Tweeted out a video that omitted that salient fact and made it seem that he had come up with the term on his own.

“He was nominated for the purpose of taking away a woman’s constitutionally protected right to make her own health care decisions,” her Tweet concluded. “Make no mistake - this is about punishing women.”

We think that Sen. Harris is guilty here of knowingly misleading the public. Our case was not about whether women should have access to contraception but whether we have the right to practice our religious freedom.

Focusing on Judge Kavanaugh’s terminology is a distraction from the main point, which is that the law must protect citizens rights to live their sincerely held religious beliefs, no matter what terminology they use in expressing those beliefs.

Judge Kavanaugh completely understands the distinction between contraception and “abortion-inducing drugs” and knows that in 1965, five years after the birth control pill was approved by the FDA, the legal definition of pregnancy was redefined as beginning at implantation rather than fertilization.

What Judge Kavanaugh also understands, and many of his objectors do not, is that it is not the role of the Court to judge the accuracy or credibility of a citizen’s religious beliefs, but to protect the citizens’ freedom to hold and live those beliefs. That is what he did in the Priests for Life case, and that is one of the countless reasons he should be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Fr. Frank Pavone is the National Director at  Priests for Life, one of the world's largest Catholic organization focused exclusively on ending abortion.