Abortion opponents were reassured by Kavanaugh's comments on Roe v. Wade

Abortion opponents were reassured by Kavanaugh's comments on Roe v. Wade

Anti-abortion outlets and groups attacked Democrats, pro-choice protesters for highlighting the risk Kavanaugh poses to abortion access

Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


Melisa Joskow / Media Matters

Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing demonstrated that he will be a threat to abortion rights and would likely vote to overturn or curtail protections stemming from Roe v. Wade -- despite previous claims by right-wing media to the contrary. Abortion opponents reacted to the hearing by praising Kavanaugh’s position on abortion and reproductive rights, and by attacking pro-choice protesters and Democratic senators.

This week, Kavanaugh participated in a confirmation hearing for his nomination to the Supreme Court, which reaffirmed that he will be a threat to abortion rights. Rewire.News’ Jessica Mason Pieklo wrote that Kavanaugh’s references to “Roe as Supreme Court precedent and even ‘super-precedent’” served as a consistent talking point for the judge who was seemingly shielding his views on abortion rights. As Mason Pieklo explained, Kavanaugh’s invocation of precedent meant little because “precedent can be ‘unsettled’ by the Supreme Court.” In particular, “Kavanaugh reminded us of that time and time again by invoking Brown v. Board of Education,” a case that anti-abortion activists use “as an analogy” to describe a “pathway to overturn Roe.” Kavanaugh “also called birth control an abortifacient, … echoing another anti-choice talking point that dangerously conflates contraception with abortion.” Mason Pieklo also pointed to an email released during the hearing “where Kavanaugh says that many legal scholars do not see Roe v. Wade as settled law.”

Kavanaugh’s record also suggests he would vote in favor of overturning Roe, or otherwise support further curtailing abortion rights. For example, in 2017, Kavanaugh opposed allowing an unaccompanied pregnant immigrant teen [called Jane Doe] who was in federal custody to have an abortion -- using language like “abortion on demand,” an inaccurate phrase frequently used by abortion opponents, to explain his decision. Kavanaugh also praised the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s dissent in Roe during a speech in 2017 -- which Mason Pieklo noted made sense, given that Rehnquist’s dissent in Roe and Kavanaugh’s dissent in the Jane Doe case both “fundamentally [deny] reproductive autonomy all while purporting to be respecting the bounds of the law.” New York magazine’s Irin Carmon pointed to Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s (D-CT) question about whether Kavanaugh’s language in the Jane Doe case “was a signal” to conservative organizations “that you were prepared, and you are, to overturn Roe v. Wade.” Carmon also indicated that Kavanaugh’s 2017 speech was another “signal” of the same sort.

As the hearing progressed, abortion opponents reacted with glee at Kavanaugh’s answers on abortion rights, and attacked pro-choice Democrats and activists who opposed his likely views on Roe. Here are a few examples:

During the hearing, anti-abortion outlet LifeNews celebrated Kavanaugh’s answers

  • Anti-abortion organization Americans United for Life tweeted one of the celebratory LifeNews articles, writing, “In yesterday's Judiciary Committee hearings, Judge Kavanaugh confirmed that there is no right to abortion in the Constitution.” Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Kavanaugh’s answers about precedent were "simply recognizing the fact that discussion of the principles of stare decisis has become recognized as a leading decision in that area,” meaning that judges tend to talk about the decision in Roe as a matter of “settled law.” She also added that she believed “there is no reason to follow the precedent of Roe.”

Abortion opponents reacted to Kavanaugh's demurring about Roe's precedent with reassurances that it could be overturned

  • Ryan Bomberger, founder of the anti-abortion organization Radiance Foundation tweeted about Kavanaugh calling Roe “settled law”:

  • Anti-abortion organization Students for Life of America reassured followers about Kavanaugh’s position on Roe, tweeting, “Any Court ruling can be overturned.”
  • Right to Life of Michigan downplayed the impact of overturning Roe, tweeting, “When Roe v. Wade falls, it simply puts the voters and elected officials back in the drivers (sic) seat. What happens will be up to you, the voter, not five unelected, unaccountable politicians acting as judges.” In reality, overturning Roe will have devastating consequences for abortion rights at the state level.

Anti-abortion activists and outlets also attacked pro-choice activists and protesters

  • LifeNews tweeted, “More abortion activists arrested after pro-abortion outbursts because they don't care about civility.”
  • Radiance Foundation tweeted:

  • During one protest, Ryan Bomberger tweeted, “No irony here at all. While talking about mental illness court case, unhinged pro-abortion protesters resume their crazy outbursts.”
  • Father Frank Pavone of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life tweeted:

  • Anti-abortion organization Pro-Life Action League tweeted an anti-abortion myth about abortion safety, claiming that while pro-choice activists are “making a whole lot of noise about the supposed need to ‘keep abortion #safeandlegal.’ The problem for them, though, is that legal abortion isn't actually very safe.”
  • Commenting on a protest, LifeNews tweeted, “The latest shouter: ‘Save Democracy Save Roe.’ How does killing a baby in an abortion without due process serve a democracy?”
  • LifeNews responded to pro-choice activists’ concern over Kavanaugh’s use of the phrase “abortion inducing drugs,” with an inaccurately-titled article: “No, Brett Kavanaugh Didn’t Call True Birth Control ‘Abortion Drugs.’ Plan B Can Cause Abortions.”

Anti-abortion activists and outlets used the hearings as an opportunity to attack Democratic senators on the committee

  • In response to a question from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) about whether there are any laws that explicitly regulate men’s bodies, LifeNews ran an article titled:

  • David Daleiden, founder of discredited anti-abortion organization Center for Medical Progress, tweeted about Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) while also promoting an upcoming anti-abortion movie:

  • Fox News’ Todd Starnes tweeted, “It is deeply chilling to watch people like @SenFeinstein defend the killing of unborn babies. #evil.”
  • National Right to Life tweeted that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was “severely misguided about” Roe, because “it's not about ‘privacy rights,’ Senator. It's about depriving an entire class of human beings the fundamental right to life.”

Correction: This post originally include an inaccurate link. In the sentence "David Daleiden, founder of discredited anti-abortion organization Center for Medical Progress, tweeted about Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) while also promoting an upcoming anti-abortion movie," it linked to a piece about the in-production Roe v. Wade movie, which is distinct from the soon-to-be-released film Gosnell.

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