After Kavanaugh’s nomination, what do we do now?


Last Saturday, the United States Senate voted to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U. S. Supreme Court 50 to 48. As the lengthy, often frustrating confirmation process demonstrated, a majority of the Senate learned no lessons from Anita Hill’s testimony in 1992.

Along primarily partisan lines, the Senate voted to confirm a man accused of sexual assault by at least three women. The Senate choose to turn their backs on us, women and survivors of sexual assault and abuse. The shameful scam of a confirmation process showed Judge Kavanaugh’s political agenda and a temperament not suitable for the highest court in our land. Many different groups stood in opposition to his appointment.

{mosads}It is unconscionable that the Senate confirmed his nomination with so many examples of his unsuitability as a justice and lack of integrity.

It is clear that for conservative and anti-choice members of the Senate, Kavanaugh’s long history of opposition to reproductive rights and access to abortion trumped all other possible considerations. Make no mistake, this was an entirely deliberate action. There are many conservative judges who have clear anti-choice judicial philosophies that would have been equally unpalatable to reproductive rights advocates, but who have not been accused of sexual assault. Kavanaugh’s confirmation was a punitive move to reinforce existing cultural norms that suppress the reporting of sexual assault and punish women who question such norms.

With all of this recent history, Kavanaugh will take his seat on the U. S. Supreme Court. Barring anything leading to the long and difficult process of removing a Supreme Court Justice or his decision to step down, Kavanaugh will be a member of the court for the immediate future. He could potentially sit on the court for decades. So, what do we do now?

I call on Justice Kavanaugh as well as the other sitting justices to respect not only the rule of law that is the foundation of our government but also existing federal law regarding abortion. When the right to privacy was recognized in the Roe v. Wade decision, it changed the lives of all women in the United States by making it unconstitutional for states to ban abortion.

Since 1973, people who can get pregnant have not been held hostage by their reproductive capacity. While states have been working to restrict access to abortion since 1973 — particularly after the 1993 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that said that states had a legitimate legal interest in regulating abortion — states have been prohibited from out-right criminalizing abortion.

But restrictions are creating less access across the country and that is hurting all of us. There are currently several cases working their way through the appellate court system that the Supreme Court could decide to hear, and any of these cases could imperil access to abortion in much of the United States.

Four states have laws on the books that would immediately ban abortion in their state if Roe was overturned by the court. Nine states have laws that banned abortion before Roe that could be enforced if it is overturned. Seven states have laws that would put access to abortion in jeopardy without Roe. The anti-choice movement has been pushing for the passage of increasingly extreme legislation since Casey in an attempt not only to make abortion as difficult to obtain as possible, but also to make sure that there would be cases that could be appealed to an anti-choice stacked Supreme Court. Nine states have laws that protect access to reproductive health care. In these states, abortion will remain accessible to women even if Roe is overturned.

Women who live in states without access to abortion will be able to receive care there, if they can afford to travel that is. Women of color are already more harshly affected by restrictions on abortion because they earn less than white women. For low-income women, abortion can already be unobtainable from certain locations. Don’t be fooled, we are much further down the path to criminalizing abortion and that path was built over the backs and bodies of women of color and low income women. Lack of abortion access has caused so much destruction already, we cannot go back.

Our Supreme Court justices must recognize what is at stake if they do not act to protect our existing laws regarding abortion. Before 1973, women died without access to safe abortion services. Current abortion restrictions have put women in dangerous situations because, while abortion was still legal, it was inaccessible to them. Rosie Jimenez died in Texas after the passage of the Hyde Amendment that prohibited her from using her Medicaid to access a safe abortion is a stark reminder.

The stories of doctors who worked in “septic wards,” wards for women who were suffering from septicemia or blood infections from unsafe abortions, are another. In less dramatic circumstances are women who can’t provide for their existing families or who do not want to be pregnant. If abortion is illegal in much of the country, it will be effectively banned for all women without the resources to access it. Legal rights are meaningless without access, but lack of access can also nullify legal rights.

Julie A. Burkhart is the founder and CEO of Trust Women. Trust Women opens clinics that provide abortion care in underserved communities so that all women can make their own decisions about their healthcare. Follow her on Twitter @julieburkhart.

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