In light of President Trump’s vow to only nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court Justices hostile to abortion rights, the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh may pose the greatest threat to reproductive rights in more than a generation. Hours after the nomination was announced, Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, appeared on both MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show and Velshi & Ruhle to stress that the burden is on Kavanaugh to clarify his views and promise to uphold the constitutionally-protected right to abortion. “The president promised to appoint to the Supreme Court only Justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and we need to assume that President Trump tonight has done that," said Northup on Maddow.
Judge Kavanaugh’s record on abortion is “not one that rebuts that presumption,” Northup continued. “He has decided one case on abortion in his time on the DC Circuit and, in that case, he ruled against the woman seeking access.” In Garza v. Hargan, Kavanaugh joined an opinion that would have allowed the Trump administration to further delay the request of a 17-year-old undocumented minor in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services who was seeking an abortion. After the entire D.C. Circuit overturned this ruling, he doubled down in a dissent that argued it was constitutional to delay the young woman's abortion for at least 11 more days.
Speaking on Velshi & Ruhle, Northup argued that Kavanaugh’s record on abortion makes it imperative that he provide clear indication of his agreement with the rationale and premise of Roe. “We need to hear him say not just that it’s precedent when he was testifying to become a judge on the Appellate Court—of course he has to follow Supreme Court precedent. It’s different when he’s on the Supreme Court, and we need to know that he understands and is committed to making sure that Roe v. Wade and access to abortion continues to be meaningful for American women."
And, as Northup explained on Velshi & Ruhle, more than abortion is at stake. An entire class of intertwined rights that rely on Roe’s interpretation of the 14th Amendment—including the right to make decisions about marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child-rearing, and more—are now threatened. "What [Kavanaugh] thinks about this line of personal liberty is important. He should say what he thinks about [Roe], what he thinks about the underpinnings of the case, what he thinks about this area and this realm of personal liberty which the Constitution promises to us, as the Supreme Court has said. Where does he stand on that?”
Justice Gorsuch evaded questions during his confirmation hearing and has since proven dangerously hostile to a host of civil rights—from workers’ rights to voting rights. On Maddow, Northup stressed that the Senate cannot let this happen again. "What the senators should insist upon, including Senators Collins and Murkowski, is that they get a direct and plain answer about where Judge Kavanaugh stands... Will he accept the rationale and the basis for the decision in Roe v. Wade? Will he confirm that he is not going to overturn Roe v. Wade?"
As Northup argued on Maddow, Americans deserve to know where Kavanaugh stands on “basic personal liberties.” Roe is established law, upheld time and time again by subsequent Supreme Court decisions and relied on by generations of women for more than 45 years. If Roe fell tomorrow, 22 states could immediately face outright abortion bans, forcing millions of women to travel across state lines to access basic health care. With dozens of reproductive rights cases making their way through the lower courts and states moving at an alarming rate to enact bills denying a woman’s constitutional right to safe and legal abortion, “This isn’t a time for games on this issue," as Northup said. "We need answers.”