Judge Brett Kavanaugh was officially nominated by President Trump to be the new Supreme Court justice replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy upon his retirement. If this doesn’t give you pause, then this article is for you.
The Supreme Court is composed of nine justices. Before Kennedy retired, there was a 5-4 majority conservative make up, meaning that 5 of the judges leaned conservatively, and 4 leaned liberally. Kennedy, however, was often the swing vote, making it unclear as to how the Supreme Court might vote on a given case. Whoever replaces Kennedy secures either the conservative or liberal majority for a foreseeable generation, which is why this nomination matters so much.
You might recall from your high school government class that the president has the power to appoint Supreme Court justices, but it’s not quite as simple as that. After a president announces their nominee, the Senate holds a hearing, debates, and then votes. This is a big reason why it matters which party holds the majority in the Senate: a conservative majority is more likely to win the vote for a conservative nominee, and vice versa. Right now, the Republican party holds that majority.
If you remember back in 2016, Obama tried to nominate the judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The Senate, however, refused to hold the confirmation hearing, rendering Obama’s pick unappointed and a vacancy ready to be filled upon President Trump’s election. He appointed conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, and now has yet another chance to seal the conservative majority in the Supreme Court.
So why should you care about who sits on the Supreme Court? Sometimes it feels like things at the highest level of government concern the average person the least. But there is a pretty big court case that, if overturned, would affect the average American woman immensely: Roe v. Wade.
The case, decided in 1973, ensured women’s right to choose if they wanted an abortion. This doesn’t mean that every woman can easily access an abortion – there are restrictions on abortion clinics, pregnancy crisis centers that falsely advertise offering unbiased advice to pregnant women, and, in some states, very few abortion clinics.
Kavanaugh, if confirmed to the Supreme Court, could provide the vote to overturn the law that has given women the freedom of choice over what to do with their bodies. Presently, it’s not perfectly clear as to what his stance on abortion is. Kavanaugh opposed the decision of the case Garza v. Hargan, in which a young immigrant woman in a detention center was granted permission to have an abortion without delay. This crucial piece of information will be questioned during the Senate hearing. However, it’s likely that Kavanaugh would be evasive when it comes to answering questions: his true colors would come out only once on the bench.
So how would Roe eventually be dismantled? Individual states, many of which already have restrictions on abortion clinics, could tighten those restrictions or impose abortion bans after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which usually occurs around six weeks. Eventually, state cases could make their way to the Supreme Court, in which case Roe v. Wade would be in danger of being overruled entirely.
As a young woman who grew up in the U.S. in a fairly liberal state, I have lived my whole life knowing that, if the time came, I could seek an abortion. This hasn’t made me less cautious or responsible as a sexually active human; rather, it gives me agency over my life. It is so hard for me to comprehend why people, and so often men, are so vehemently opposed to granting women this choice, this control over their reproduction and in turn their bodies. It feels like this country is spinning backwards, especially after seeing countries like Ireland make strides in support of progression and women’s autonomy.
If nothing else, this sequence of events is the perfect example of why we should care about more than just the presidential elections. While it’s easy to turn our heads at local elections and midterms because they just don’t seem as important, this is exactly why they are. Across the country, about 60% of people eligible to vote voted in the 2016 presidential election, but only about 35% of that eligible group voted in the 2014 midterm elections. And, even though people aged 53 and younger comprise the majority of the eligible, more liberal, voting population, they have shown up the least when voting, giving the older, often more conservative population more of a say over what happens to this country.
We still have time. We can still call our senators and voice what we want the future to look like. It makes me disheartened and appalled to imagine that we might be heading again towards a time in which women could die by seeking a procedure that should be safe.
I have never felt a greater call to action, and I just hope that if the time comes we will be ready to fight.