Reproductive rights advocates warning against Kavanaugh as High Court nominee

Jul 11, 2018

Groups that back a woman’s right to choose abortion are sounding the alarm about President Trump’s choice of Brett Kavanaugh to be the newest justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Robin Chappelle Golston, President of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, the lobbying arm of Planned Parenthood in New York, predicts that the landmark 1973 abortion rights decision Roe v Wade will likely be overturned if Kavanaugh is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

"I definately think that is a serious threat," Chappelle Golston said, "I mean, Trump pledged to nominate a nominee that would overturn - or be willing to overturn - Rose v Wade, so we think that is a total possibility." 

She said women who back abortion rights should be very worried and need to speak up.  

"As a nation I think we're really facing a lot of challenges on a lot of different issues and I really don't want to see this country going backwards, but we definately are on a cusp of really going backwards," she said, "and everyone needs to be aware of that and participate in that and voting and taking to the streets."

Debora McDell-Hernandez, of Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, said Kavanaugh has not just ruled to limit access to abortion, but access to birth control.

"Judge Kavanaugh authored the dissenting opinion in the D.C. Circuit’s 2015 ruling on the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit, writing that he believed employers have the right to deny their employees' health insurance coverage for birth control," McDell-Hernandez said. 

Amy Myrick, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents abortion-rights advocates in court, also says "the threat level is very high now."

Reversing the landmark case would not automatically make abortion illegal across the country. Instead, it would return the decision about abortion legality to the states, where a patchwork of laws already in place render abortion more or less available, largely depending on individual states' political leanings.

"We think there are 22 states likely to ban abortion without Roe" because of a combination of factors including existing laws and regulations on the books and the positions of the governors and state legislatures, says Myrick.

Kavanaugh never opined on Roe v. Wade directly during his tenure on the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. In his 2006 confirmation hearing for that position, though, he said he would follow Roe v. Wade as a "binding precedent" of the Supreme Court — which judges in lower courts are required to do.

National Public Radio contributed to this story.