05:43, July 10 243 0 theguardian.com

2020-07-10 05:43:03
The supreme court endangered access to contraception. There's a way to fight back

Exactly two years ago today, Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to be a justice to the supreme court. What followed was one of the most bitter confirmation battles in the history of the court. Advocates and citizens lined up to lobby their Senators to vote no on the confirmation, deeply concerned about the judge’s record on civil rights, reproductive rights, and executive authority. Kavanaugh was the least popular nominee to face confirmation and that was all before Dr Christine Blasey Ford came forward with her allegation of sexual assault.

We all know what transpired next. Protests erupted around the country and in the capitol. Republican senators cast doubt on Blasey Ford’s testimony. They called advocates’ concerns overblown and hysterical. They suppressed documents related to the judge’s history. And they confirmed Kavanaugh by the smallest margin in supreme court history, with Maine senator Susan Collins casting the deciding vote.

The story didn’t end there, however. Kavanaugh’s confirmation became an inflection point for a reckoning across the country that continues to shape and define the 2020 election. His confirmation was a proven liability for Republicans running for re-election in 2018; polling by PerryUndem found that the Kavanaugh hearings actually buoyed Democrats in 2018 more than Republicans. The House of Representatives flipped and the most diverse class in history entered Congress in a wave that allowed pro-choice candidates to reclaim seats across the country.

Since then, Kavanaugh has proven to be the albatross to reproductive freedom that we warned of, and in more ways than one. Despite historic high levels of support for Roe v Wade and legal access to abortion, Kavanaugh’s confirmation emboldened a radical right, anti-choice movement that spent a good deal of 2019 and 2020 passing, introducing or signing into law extreme bans on abortion in 31 states. In addition there are two dozen cases in the pipeline that seriously threaten Roe.

Kavanaugh’s rulings have only underscored that the concerns about him were well-founded. This week, he ruled that employers can deny their employees access to birth control without a co-pay, gutting a hallmark of the Affordable Care Act that has put contraception reliably within reach of millions of people. That’s on the heels of his dissent in June v Russo, a case that would have gutted four-year old legal precedent to shutter the remaining abortion clinics in Louisiana and greenlight similar moves in conservative states across the country.

The fact that both of these decisions undercut civil and human rights and disproportionately punish low-income women and women of color is of no consequence to this justice, who similarly ruled against Daca recipients and workplace protections for LGBTQ people. The contraception decision was to be expected, given the makeup of the current court, but was nonetheless devastating. Giving employers the ability to determine whether or not their employee can access reproductive healthcare, especially in the midst of a pandemic and economic downturn, gives employers too much control over the lives of their employees.

None of this is lost on the people who expressed their concern and outrage against Kavanaugh. Lifetime appointments are serious business. We know that Kavanaugh will be in a position to wreak havoc on our freedoms for years to come. But Kavanaugh’s confirmation turned voters’ attention to those they can hold accountable at the ballot box – the senators who voted to confirm Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh’s dissent in the abortion clinic case and and his concurrence in the birth control case spawned outrage at senators facing re-election, probably none more than Susan Collins in Maine. Once considered among the most popular and reasonable members of the Senate, her vote for Kavanaugh has resulted in plummeting favorability, placing her race at the top of the list for potential Democratic pick-ups this cycle and spurring a fundraising windfall for her challenger, Sara Gideon.

Immediately after the June v Russo decision, Naral released a video highlighting all the times Collins claimed indefensibly and with no proof that Kavanaugh would respect precedent when it came to abortion rights. Now that his record as a supreme court justice speaks for itself, Collins’ charade is completely unmasked. Senators in Montana, Colorado and Iowa, Republican incumbents who voted for Kavanaugh, are also now facing uphill climbs in their quest for re-election.

Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the most vicious defenders of Kavanaugh during his contentious nomination process, is being outraised by, and polling neck-and-neck with, Jaime Harrison in South Carolina. The Senate is more in play than most people imagine, and while few people in these states would say that the top reason for switching their vote is the supreme court, there’s no question that their Senators’ votes to confirm Kavanaugh amid such an acrimonious backdrop eroded trust, a condition that is exacerbated every single time that Kavanaugh decides against reproductive rights, civil rights, immigrant rights, and social progress.

The coming election will take place against the backdrop of an unprecedented pandemic which has underscored systemic racial disparities in healthcare and the most significant reckoning with persistent racism and anti-blackness in decades.

For all white women – not just those who supported Trump in 2016 and have been defecting from the Republican Party ever since – this is the moment where your vote and your commitment matters most.

We can’t afford to repeat the same mistakes of the past. It’s time to invest in an intersectional feminist movement.

Together, we have the power to make sure that Brett Kavanaugh’s legacy could be bringing together white women and women of color to vote for and work towards a transformational future that looks like everything Republicans have been trying to prevent for decades.

  • Ilyse Hogue is the president of Naral Pro-Choice America and the author of the upcoming book The Lie That Binds