Point-Counterpoint: Don’t appoint Kavanaugh

Supreme Court Associate Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Sept. 5. (Christy Bowe/Globe Photos/Zuma Press/TNS)

This is one part of a two-part series about Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Read Hayden Timmins’ counterpoint here

When former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in July, President Donald Trump had the opportunity to lock down a strong conservative base of five justices — and to do so, he chose Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

No one truly knows where Kavanaugh stands on issues that have historically broken party lines, like abortion and health care — a troubling sign, considering his record as a U.S. circuit judge and his behavior during his confirmation hearings. Both show he is a liar who does not follow the precedent of courts before him — which will be disastrous for the American people, especially women.

Any senate confirmation hearings for a new Supreme Court judge will be brutal. Typically, over a period of four to five days, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary grills justice nominees to determine what their personal beliefs and track record mean for the American public. Then, senators cast their vote to either confirm or deny a nominee.

Kavanaugh’s hearings were unusual to say the least. For most Supreme Court nominees, most or all documents — emails, memos and publications — are released to members of the Senate well in advance.

But during the Kavanaugh hearings an additional 42,000 documents regarding the nominee were released the night of Sept. 3 — hours before hearings commenced. And many of Kavanaugh’s documents weren’t released to the public because doing so would have violated the executive privilege of George W. Bush, for whom Kavanaugh served as assistant and White House Staff Secretary.

Democratic senators decided they had enough of the secrecy. Sens. Bob Casey, Corey Booker and Mazie Hirono released thousands of Kavanaugh’s emails and other documents on Sept. 6 that they believed the public had a right to view.

One of those emails caught Kavanaugh in an outright lie when Sen. Patrick Leahy asked whether Kavanaugh had contact with former Republican senate aide Manuel Miranda, who in 2004 was accused of stealing documents from Democratic members of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary — including Leahy.

In his hearing on Wednesday, Kavanaugh told Leahy he had not received files from Miranda — but in one 2003 email with the subject line “Spying,” Kavanaugh describes having a “mole on the left” who revealed to him details of campaign donation funds set up by pro-choice advocacy groups.

Kavanaugh outright lied to Leahy on Wednesday, and then faced his lie on Thursday after the documents were leaked. This is not the only time Kavanaugh lied about his contact with Miranda while under oath. In two separate hearings for his position on circuit courts, one in 2004 and another in 2006, he denied having contact with Miranda.

When pressed about the new details surrounding his contact with Miranda, Kavanaugh claimed he thought Miranda was receiving information from Democratic aide friends of his, not stealing files. Leahy didn’t buy it.

“I was born at night but not last night,” Leahy said.

Dishonesty like this could have disastrous impacts, particularly for women’s health. Kavanaugh joins four notably conservative justices whom many women’s rights advocates say are dangerously open to reinterpreting Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized elective abortion in 1973.
In an email Booker (D-N.J.) released on Sept. 6, Kavanaugh wrote to a pro-life advocacy group that he was “not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so.”

Republican senators, like Dan Sullivan of Alaska, want to take Kavanaugh’s word that he now believes Roe is settled law — but he’s already proven himself a liar.

Kavanaugh has used precedent time and time again to warp the law to fit his political beliefs. These beliefs include restricting women’s access to abortion, as evidenced by his use of precedent to argue against providing abortion services. This will mean disastrous consequences for American women if he is confirmed.

Kavanaugh sat on the court that ruled on the high-profile abortion rights case Azar v. Garzan, in which Jane Doe, an undocumented minor immigrant, sought an abortion — forcing her into a months-long battle against the Trump administration. The ruling states that Doe had the right to an abortion in the United States.

Kavanaugh wrote in his dissent that forcing her to return to her home country, where elective abortion is illegal, or forcing her to find a sponsor in the United States, a process that oftentimes takes months, would not be causing undue burden.

Any ruling against Roe v. Wade has the potential for disastrous consequences for women. If Kavanaugh’s anti-abortion and anti-Roe views were not enough, where other judges would accept precedents of the court before them that further the common good, Kavanaugh would surely break them — which is why he’s even worse.

Without access to safe and readily available abortion services, many women are more likely to resort to home abortions — which often are deadly. Unsafe abortion practices are responsible for at least 4.7 percent of maternal deaths worldwide each year, and if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, that number would likely increase. Stopping abortion access does not stop abortion, but makes it more likely for women to turn to unsafe, potentially deadly means.

Republican leaders believe presenting Kavanaugh as following strict adherence to precedent will make him an easy pill for citizens to swallow. However, he has shown himself to be not only a liar who will say anything to secure his position on the court, but also someone who has been willing to change “precedent” to suit his own anti-abortion beliefs in the past. Confirming Kavanaugh would be a mistake that senators who vote for him will pay dearly for in the midterm elections this November.

Delilah primarily writes about politics and science for The Pitt News. Write to Delilah at dgb22@pitt.edu.

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