In 1973, the landmark ruling of Roe V. Wade solidified in the United States a woman's right to choose. Since then, there has been no shortage of attacks from anti-choice groups across the country that have succeeded in whittling down those rights in individual states. Thankfully, the ruling has succeeded in staying, despite the hand of states that tried to unreasonably restrict or legislate abortion access. In the face of a highly-conservative justice appointee, hand-chosen by anti-choice special interest groups, however, many of us are worrying. Can Roe v. Wade actually be overturned if Kavanaugh is appointed and gains the seat in the United States Supreme Court?
Absolutely. In fact, there are several cases currently wending their way through the lower courts concerning women's reproductive freedom. Any of these cases could ultimately end up being heard before what would be, by any estimation, the most conservative Supreme Court the U.S. has seen in generations, according to The Washington Post. Brett Kavanaugh, 53, has a long paper trail which shows him to be no champion of women's rights, beginning in his early years with his career as a Kennedy clerk, and his time working for Kenneth Starr during the Bill Clinton investigation in the '90s. Since then, he's gone on to work for President George W. Bush, notably helping stop the recount in Florida which led to Bush's victory in 2000, reported Politifact.
Seating Kavanaugh would tip the balance in the court. Justice Kennedy has long been considered to be the key swing vote when it concerned abortion rights. If the senate confirms the ultra-conservative Kavanaugh, who sided with the Trump administration when it sought to bar a teenage immigrant from having an abortion, it's likely that anti-choice advocates have a clear path to ending the 45-year-old precedent of Roe v. Wade.
While it would still be largely up to states how abortion is legislated, four states have what are referred to as "trigger laws" that would ban abortion immediately upon the overturn of the long-standing precedent, reported Mic. And 17 states have laws already on the books that would serve to restrict access to safe, legal abortion if there was an upset to Roe v. Wade, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Kavanaugh has been serving as a D.C. Circuit Court judge since 2006, so citizens and legislators have a surfeit of opinions and rulings they can look to when examining his jurisprudence. He's a skilled attorney, known for being a strict originalist — meaning he attempts to read the constitution as it was meant to be read in the time it was written. In some circles, this is seen as a way of describing someone who's unlikely to become an activist judge, reported The Washington Post, but to many, it's a concerning label that means he's presumably very conservative.
His confirmation hearings in the 2004 stalled because the senate at the time worried that he was too conservative and political to be able to effectively and objectively hear cases that could impact the lives of millions of Americans. Moreover, the very fact that President Donald Trump appointed him is cause enough for women to be concerned about reproductive freedom, because Trump said during the 2016 presidential primaries that he would "appoint pro-life judges," reported NBC, and beyond that, women who inevitably seek out abortion should be met with some form of punishment.
So, can Roe v. Wade really be overturned if Kavanaugh is appointed to the Supreme Court? Alongside fellow conservative judges like Gorsuch, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts, abortion access and rights have never been more at risk. We know that precedent means very little to the current Supreme Court, as evidenced by their overturning of 41 years of precedent when they ruled in favor of Janus in Janus v. AFSCME, a labor union dispute that would've been inconceivable if Garland sat on the court and not Gorsuch, according to CNBC. Our hope lies with the Senate, especially the red state Democrats and pro-choice republican senators, Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK). If they can block his appointment, then the process begins again, hopefully with someone with a more moderate history. (If wishes were horses...)