I’ll share a story that begins at the end. It’s a story of how we ended the constitutional right to an abortion in this country. And, it’s a story that we knew would end this way when Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the US Supreme Court one year ago.
With the announcement that the Court would hear the case, June Medical Services v. Gee, an identical case to Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt decided by the court three years ago — the gloves have officially come off. Any sense of pretense — Kavanaugh is new on the Court and doesn’t want to rock the boat — has dissipated. Abortion foes have been waiting for this moment — when the balance of the Court tipped towards conservatives — as there is no substantive reason for hearing almost the exact same case that is settled law, other than to gut abortion rights now that Kavanaugh is on the Court.
But, how did we get here?
The Republican takeover of our courts, including our highest court, predates Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell obstructed judicial nominees at every turn, including the President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. As a consequence, and by design, President Trump took office with a Supreme Court vacancy and an unprecedented number of lower court vacancies. McConnell’s scorched earth approach to judicial nominations, including using the “nuclear option” to change Senate rules to confirm Supreme Court appointments with a simple majority, resulted in now Justice Neil Gorsuch filling what should be Merrick Garland’s seat. Neil Gorsuch is a deeply conservative, anti-choice judge without question, who never would have been confirmed without McConnell’s use of the nuclear option. And, this is not the only travesty of justice under this president and Senate Majority Leader. Indeed, the wounds are still fresh on Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, or lack thereof.
On October 6, 2018, the Senate voted to confirm Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. Kavanaugh’s nomination was the most strongly opposed in modern history. Through the confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh demonstrated behavior unbecoming of anyone, let alone a nominee to the highest court of the land. Allegations of sexual assault from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez compounded the belief that Kavanaugh was not — and is not — fit to serve a lifetime appointment on the Court. And, there’s compelling evidence that he lied under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his personal and professional past. Any one of these failings should have made Kavanaugh a completely unacceptable choice for the Supreme Court. Yet, Republican leadership bent every rule, broke with Senate norms, and threw out any sense of decency and morality to ensure nothing stopped Kavanaugh from cementing an anti-choice majority on the bench.
All of which brings us back to the end of our story. Gee is the first abortion-related case the Supreme Court will hear on the merits since Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. By agreeing to hear a case about an exact issue already decided, the Court has demonstrated its utter disregard for all precedent, especially the constitutional right to abortion that it cemented over 46 years ago and has reaffirmed time and time again. We watched the story being written, have lived its narrative, and should not be surprised by how it’s likely to end. We can and will write a new story. We must. One where there’s regard for Senate norms and traditions; survivors who share their experiences; laws affirming reproductive health, rights, and access; and Supreme Court precedent.
So we keep rallying. And, we fight. And, we work to pass state laws codifying Roe v. Wade. And, we urge House leadership to investigate Kavanaugh. And, we vote. And, we never get complacent about our ability to control our bodies, our sexuality, and our futures.