Day 1: Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Hearing Begins: What’s at Stake?

Amid considerable tumult, the Senate Judiciary Committee today began the hearing process to consider the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve as the next Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court. Moments after Chair Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) opened proceedings, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) called to adjourn the hearing in order to allow the Committee to review more than 42,000 documents that were made available just hours earlier—this motion was quickly seconded by many of the Committee’s Democratic members. In his opening remarks, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) acknowledged that “this vote and this proceeding could not be more consequential in light of what is at stake,” including “whether women can decide when they want to have children and become pregnant.”

Meanwhile, Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, joined hundreds of women leaders including Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) at a vigil on Capitol Hill to remind senators that the stakes of this nomination are extraordinarily high. Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of reproductive rights advocates, Northup talked about how three generations of her family—her mother, herself, and her daughter—had used IUDs for birth control. And, “because of the Affordable Care Act, it didn’t cost my daughter a thousand dollars. She was able to get it with no copay,” said Northup. “In court cases around the country, they [anti-choice activists] are trying to make sure employers don’t have to cover IUDs because they don’t want to be complicit in ‘immorality.’ Judge Kavanaugh has been on the side of employers in these cases.”

“We do not need a jurisprudence in which women’s birth control is talked about as complicity with immorality,” Northup continued. “We need a jurisprudence that respects our choices. That’s what’s at stake.”

Last week, the Center formally opposed Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court after a thorough analysis of his judicial opinions, speeches, and writings. Speaking with Rachel Maddow, Northup discussed the Center’s “unprecedented” decision to oppose a Supreme Court nominee for the first time in its 26-year history. “Our mission is to advance reproductive rights as fundamental rights—we do that in state and federal courts throughout the United States, we’ve done it again and again in every major Supreme Court case on abortion rights since our founding 26 years ago” said Northup. “Now, that mission is on the line.”

The Center’s report concluded that Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophy is "fundamentally hostile to the protection of reproductive rights.” In Garza v. Hargan, he misapplied Supreme Court precedent in order to block an undocumented minor from accessing an abortion.

Judge Kavanaugh has criticized the Supreme Court’s decisions upholding the Affordable Care Act, which has provided critical maternal and reproductive health care access to millions of women. He has also applied a narrow, backward-looking approach to defining the scope of individual liberty under the Constitution at odds with the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence protecting the right to abortion. In her opening remarks at Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) noted that “The impact of overturning Roe is much broader than a woman's right to choose. It's about protecting the most personal decisions we all make from government intrusion. 

Most legal scholars believe that the next Supreme Court justice to be confirmed will shift the balance of the Court at a time when dozens of reproductive rights cases are making their way through the lower courts—the outcomes of which could guarantee or deny access to reproductive health care for millions of women across the United States. The hearings continue tomorrow as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have an opportunity to question the nominee directly.

Click here to see our recap of day two and day three of Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing.