Last September, at an immigration shelter in South Texas, an undocumented 17-year-old girl who journeyed from Mexico to the US alone, discovered she was pregnant. Several aspects of her life were undetermined at the time – she didn’t know how long she’d be at the detention center or where she’d be released to – but there was one decision the teen, referred to as Jane Doe, was certain of: She wanted to terminate her pregnancy. She was prepared to pay for the procedure, which had been approved by a judge – a requirement for Texas minors seeking abortions without parental consent – but was blocked from receiving the legal medical service by the Trump Administration. The ACLU sued the government, and the case, Garza v. Hargan, came before a three-judge panel on the DC circuit court. One of the judges was Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, who proposed that Jane wait on the government to find a sponsor, or another qualified adult in addition to the Texas judge, to approve the procedure, a process that could have put her gestation beyond the state’s 20-week abortion limit and prevented her from terminating her pregnancy.
Should the Senate confirm Kavanaugh, 53, he’d take the soon-to-be vacated seat of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, acquiring the life-long position to decide the future of reproductive rights in this country. While the nominee was reluctant to give details on whether he’d overturn Roe. v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion, during his contentious confirmation hearing this month, previous remarks, strengthened by his proposal in the case of Jane Doe, suggest he’d vote to reverse the constitutional right. In a memo Kavanaugh wrote in 2003, he stated that he’s “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.”
But there is more at stake than abortion access. Kavanaugh, who falsely called birth control “abortion-inducing drugs” and is currently facing multiple allegations of sexual assault and misconduct, could be an even greater threat to our bodily autonomy and reproductive freedoms. Here, Latina reproductive justice experts and activists share why they believe the appointment of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would be a danger to Latinxs and our communities.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Laura Jimenez, Executive Director, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice
In the last three years, with Trump’s hateful rhetoric so clearly open in the media, it sometimes feels hard to store up more rage around what’s happening, but in witnessing the nomination and confirmation hearing process, it’s really made it crystal clear that this administration, and many older, white men in government, are not concerned about women rights, women’s bodies, issues of consent and women’s ability to have control or say about decisions with our bodies. As Latinas, as women of color, this is not news. When I talk about reproductive justice, I talk about reproductive oppression. This is a movement building out of oppression for the last 500-plus years of this nation. Our work didn’t stop because President Obama was in office; we still had work to do.
“We see a bigger crisis for our communities with Kavanaugh.”
But now it’s more overt, and we see a bigger crisis for our communities with Kavanaugh, a man who not only tried to take away a young undocumented woman’s reproductive rights but also her human rights, her right to be recognized as a person who has the autonomy to make decisions about her body and reproductive health. Women of color have been fierce in stepping to the plate, as usual, and we will continue to be. I want our community to know that this man is not concerned about us; he is not thinking about our best interests. So I think it’s important for people to talk with their families, let them know that if they don’t believe in abortion or wouldn’t have one, they can still vote in a way that doesn’t trample the rights of others. Because these ultra-conservative white men are trying to remove our rights, for women, for immigrants, for queer folk, and that is a form of violence.
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Daniela Ramirez, Director of Constituency Communications, Planned Parenthood Action Fund
I knew from the outset that Trump would only nominate someone who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and when I learned it was Kavanaugh, that only confirmed that fact. Kavanaugh has already ruled to limit access to safe, legal abortion and has ruled against women’s access to birth control. It was the first time in my entire time at Planned Parenthood that the fear of losing the right to access abortion felt real, and that’s because it is – this is not theoretical. If given the chance, Kavanaugh would use his power to further control women’s bodies, including gutting the right to safe, legal abortion.
“The rush to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States is irresponsible and dangerous.”
That’s not all. We have seen from his record and his hearing that Kavanaugh does not believe undocumented people are entitled to basic rights, and in a country where the majority of the undocumented people are Latino, this will have a disproportionate impact on our community. He tried to block a young undocumented woman from accessing the abortion she had a legal right to, he stated that undocumented workers were not entitled to labor rights or the right to unionize, and through multiple dissents in the DC Circuit, Kavanaugh has made it clear that he will rubber-stamp Trump’s anti-immigration policies, including this administration’s priority to terminate DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Then, there are the multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, which have brought me over the edge. As a survivor myself, it has been triggering to know that a nominee to the highest court in our land and our current president who nominated him, are both accused of serious sexual assaults. At this point, knowing what we now know, the rush to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States is irresponsible and dangerous. It sends a message to survivors that politics are more important than our voices.
Jessica González-Rojas, Executive Director, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
As soon as Trump announced his nomination, we were immediately and deeply concerned about the content of his character, beliefs, and political leanings. In looking into his record, we confirmed he has ruled against access to abortion and access to birth control, sided with companies against people and has been critical of the Affordable Care Act. He’s just been absolutely horrid in terms of his record and how much he stands against justice and progress and is not what this nation needs on the Supreme Court. There’s so much at stake: DACA, Roe v. Wade, birth control access. Did you know there was a time women had to ask their husbands for permission in order to legally get birth control?
The decisions of this Court have a real impact on us, and so I want people to know this is the time to use their voices. We all have a voice in this fight. It’s not the time to be complacent. If you’ve never called a senator, it’s not scary. You just have to say you are a constituent and you are appalled by what’s happening with the Supreme Court nominee and urge them to vote no on his confirmation. The offices have to note the calls they are getting in opposition or in support, so the more calls we get in, the more power we have in our communities. Get your family involved, too. Let them know how serious this is, that it’s a lifetime appointment. We’ve been doing a lot, in Washington DC, and in our communities, but one of the most important things we do is empower people to be their own advocates, because they are their own best advocates, and they should be speaking their truth.
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Melissa Madera, Ph.D., Founder-Podcaster, The Abortion Diary
Since learning that Trump nominated Kavanaugh, it’s been a feeling of dread, one that’s only intensified as I watched his confirmation hearings and heard about the awful claims against him of sexual abuse and assault. He knows nothing about reproductive health, even falsely saying that birth control pills are a form of abortion. He’s not the first person to say this. So many conservatives think this, and it’s so surprising to me. First, don’t they have Google? Second, abortions, whether we like it or not, are a very common reproductive experience, so it’s so shocking to me that people know so little about it. There are already so many difficulties in accessing abortion. For some, particularly low-income and undocumented people, it’s impossible.
“Our bodies are at stake, and so are those of the people around us.”
But Kavanaugh could make it even more impossible, and for more people. This is extremely scary to me. Speaking with hundreds of people of different ages and life experiences, hearing their abortion stories, why they made this reproductive decision, I know how necessary this personal health care is. Our bodies are at stake, and so are those of the people around us. Beyond access, his appointment can make women silent again. We have fought so hard over the years to help people find and use their voice to tell their stories and eliminate stigma around abortion, and I don’t want to go backwards. I don’t want them to feel silenced. It’s important, now more than ever, for people to come out with their stories, if they want to.
Amanda Beatriz Williams, Executive Director, Lilith Fund
Kavanaugh’s confirmation would be devastating for marginalized communities everywhere because so many of our struggles are inextricably linked. The future of so many important protections are at risk. A critical one is Roe v. Wade, which legalized the right to an abortion, but there could be many different approaches to banning abortion, from overturning Roe altogether to allowing states to chip away at access. Kavanaugh’s confirmation would, without a doubt, result in more restrictions on abortion access and more devastation for Latinx and immigrant communities who are historically underrepresented in positions of power, disproportionately lack access to basic protections and health care, and often live in fear of discrimination or family separation. In Texas, we’ve been living in a dark reality when it comes to access to abortion – and other forms of health care – for decades. This is especially true for low-income communities of color and undocumented folks.
The fact that Trump would nominate someone, who, like him, has sexually assaulted women is no surprise to me. Power-hungry white men tend to stick together; it’s how they preserve the power they so desperately cling to. Both have shown such utter disrespect for women, whether through rulings, policy, vulgar comments, or violent acts. At Lilith Fund, our primary mission is to fund abortion and build power in Texas. We organize in our community, and engage our clients, majority of whom are low-income women of color, around movement building, advocacy, and leadership development work. It’s up to us, the people, to stop this from going any further.
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Dusti Gurule, Executive Director, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity & Reproductive Rights and COLOR Action Fund
Aside from being misogynist, which in and of itself is problematic and will potentially skew his decisions that will impact half of this country’s population, Kavanaugh has a history of anti-civil rights and anti-affirmative action decisions that set a dangerous precedent for communities of color, low-income communities, and undocumented families. He has a record of showing deference to law enforcement over individual rights. He has ruled in cases against workers’ rights, organizing efforts and the right not to be discriminated against by an employer based on race or protected status.
His opinions regarding voting rights are also troubling. I point all of these issues out because as a reproductive justice organization, COLOR does not separate issues or their impacts as a woman’s issue or a low-income issue. They are all related and intersectional and should be discussed and advocated for as such. He is yet another potential person put in a position of power who is not someone that we should trust to be making decisions about the health, the rights and the safety of women, especially women of color.
Destiny Lopez, Co-Director, All Above All
“We will feel this impact for generations. That’s why we are fighting.”
When Trump initially announced his nomination, I was skeptical. In my work, I’ve seen the Trump agenda being one about punishing and shaming women for choices around reproductive justice issues, so I was naturally skeptical that the nominee would continue to uphold that stigma, shame and punishment. I was not only right, but I was right in ways I didn’t anticipate, and it’s disheartening, upsetting, but not surprising. We know the Supreme Court weighs in on crucial issues, and their decisions have a direct impact on Latino families and all communities of color. As a lifetime appointment, his decisions won’t just impact me and my family but also my daughter’s family and that of her friends. We will feel this impact for generations. That’s why we are fighting. We did a direct action in the US Senate Building back in August, where about 100 women of color did a mic check on the negative impact this nomination would have on us. We also walked into the Senate and dropped thousands of papers that detailed our vision for justice and how he’s not it. But you don’t have to do this. Call your senators. Tell them they shouldn’t vote for Kavanaugh. If they’re not, thank them. But also remember to get registered and vote, because you decide the members of Congress who make decisions on Supreme Court nominations.