Kelsey Grimes is a lawyer, youth activist, and If/When/How Reproductive Justice Fellow with URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity. Here, Grimes explains why young people’s health is on the line should Brett Kavanaugh become a Supreme Court judge.
Young people have the most to lose from a further rightward shift in the Supreme Court, and we will have to live with the consequences throughout our adult lives. In addition to dismantling the protections of Roe v. Wade and opening the floodgates for states to make abortion illegal or increasingly inaccessible, Kavanaugh could vote to decimate Obamacare, to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ folks, and to roll back workers’ rights.
To understand just how harmful the impact on young people would be, we must talk about how these issues are connected.
For starters, we don’t have to guess Kavanaugh’s views on abortion. Judge Kavanaugh authored the dissent in Garza v. Hargan, a case that ultimately stopped the Trump administration from blocking a young immigrant from getting an abortion. This young woman had already met Texas’s burdensome restrictions on young people’s access to abortion, but that was not enough for Judge Kavanaugh. He thought that “Jane Doe” should get an immigration sponsor before she made “that momentous life decision.” Clearly, she had already made her decision.
Kavanaugh’s patronizing dissent questions a young person’s ability to decide what is best for herself, without judgment and shame from politicians.
But the fact that Jane Doe is both young and an immigrant hints at something even more troubling: Kavanaugh’s unwillingness to think practically and holistically about what the right — and the access — to abortion means for those of us who experience intersecting forms of oppression and marginalization.
And this is not only about abortion. As a reproductive justice advocate and a clinic escort volunteer for folks seeking abortion care, I’m perpetually frustrated to hear media reports talking about abortion and health care as though they are two separate things. Abortion and birth control are health care. That’s why I’m so troubled by Judge Kavanaugh’s record, which shows extreme hostility to reproductive health care access across the board.
In his dissent in Priests for Life v. HHS, Kavanaugh wrote that requiring employers to fill out a form if they didn’t want to cover abortion care and birth control constituted too great a burden on their religious liberty. This kind of ideology does not bode well for future challenges to Obamacare. Young people need the information, resources, and health services to make decisions about our lives — that includes birth control, abortion, sex ed, and prenatal and maternity care.
In addition to determining access to the full range of reproductive care, this Supreme Court vacancy is extremely important for anyone who doesn’t share the privileges that Judge Kavanaugh enjoys as a straight, wealthy, white man. In just this last session of the Supreme Court, we saw decisions with far-reaching effects for Muslim people, LGBTQ people, immigrants, women, workers, and people of color.
I’m a lawyer and a constitutional law nerd. I understand that the constitutionality of issues like abortion and Obamacare are governed by distinct rights, with differing precedents and case law. But in real life, these distinctions don’t mean much, and it’s imperative that we seat judges and justices who think about the law in practice as well as in theory.
Fair wages, decent working conditions, and access to reproductive healthcare — including abortion — all help ensure that young people can be healthy and live with dignity. Our fight for the court and for the future of this country must be a multi-issue, intersectional struggle — or it will be a struggle that will always leave some of us behind.