A sexual health expert tells us what Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination could mean for reproductive rights
On July 9th, President Donald Trump announced his Supreme Court nominee to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, D.C. District Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh. During the announcement, Trump said that “there is no one in America more qualified for this position, and no one more deserving.”
Although Trump seems very pleased with his decision, it’s one that many are unhappy about. Kavanaugh is known for his conservative decisions, so many worry that his appointment will affect key health care concerns, including easy and affordable access to birth control and abortion. In fact, shortly after the announcement was made, the hashtag #OneInFour started to appear on Twitter, representing the number of women who will have an abortion by the time they reach age 45 — and the number that will lose safe access to reproductive care if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.
The uncertainty of what’s to come is worrisome, to say the least. So to get some clarity, we talked to Dr. Logan Levkoff, an internationally recognized expert on sexuality, about Kavanaugh’s nomination and what his appointment could possibly mean for reproductive rights — and why everyone (not just women) should care.
HelloGiggles: What was your initial reaction to Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination?
Dr. Logan Levkoff: My reaction was certainly not positive. Kavanaugh has a track record of doing things to make women’s reproductive health and abortion access not easy and certainly more challenging. I think that’s really troublesome for someone who could swing an entire Surpreme Court.
HG: To get into specifics, how do you think this could affect women’s reproductive rights? What are the possible implications, especially in terms of abortion and access to birth control?
LL: If he’s appointed to the Supreme Court, I think that the very likely scenario is we are going to have a total rollback or overturning of Roe v. Wade. This can create a climate where states can absolutely, and I believe many if not most will, deny women’s access to abortion services.
Also, based on Kavanaugh’s past briefs about Hobby Lobby and religious freedom, the likelihood is he will certainly make it more difficult for women to access contraceptives under their health care plan. But let’s be honest, these issues we typically call “women’s issues” are really human issues. It’s not just women. Everyone is impacted.
HG: That’s very true. So what do you think we need to do to prepare ourselves for what might come?
LL: It’s a really important question. I think that when we talk about sexual health and reproductive health care and access, the best decisions, the most thoughtful decisions, are ones that are made with the benefit of time. We know that one in two women might need an emergency contraceptive at some point in their life. If they use it, it’s better to have it in advance and on hand. And the same goes really for all sexual health products. These products should be a part of our sexual health toolkit, whether that’s contraception, EC, or condoms.
We know that every experience we have may require something different and having access to it in a timely and thoughtful fashion is important. We don’t know when these decisions are going to be made and we don’t know how severe the decisions are going to be if they happen. But we don’t want to be in a position where we are doing things after the fact.
HG: Similar to what happened after Trump got elected, Kavanaugh’s nomination has women wanting to stock up on emergency contraceptives. What do you think about that? Is that something we really should be doing?
LL: Having EC on hand is a really good idea, not just for you but for someone else. Oftentimes the decisions that get made are not just impacting us. Sometimes they may not impact us at all based on where we are in our lives at the given moment. But they do impact other people. And that’s where I think women in particular are quite amazing. We really do care about universal access to good reproductive and sexual health care. I think that stocking up doesn’t necessarily mean you should be stockpiling. But just in general, it’s good to have these things on hand because you don’t know if you or someone else you know is going to need it.
HG: So you don’t think it’s too much?
LL: When people say, ‘When is this going to happen, is this even going to happen, is this possibly an overreaction?’ My answer would be, it doesn’t really matter. There’s no time like the present to talk about these issues. We should always be having these conversations about contraception and sexual health. We should be talking about this with partners, friends, sisters, other family members and also with our health-care providers. Having some forethought about what we might need in advance is always beneficial. There’s really no harm in being proactive.
HG: Like you said, the decisions that are made by lawmakers and the Supreme Court don’t just affect certain groups of people. So what would you say to people who don’t think Kavanaugh’s nomination is a big deal? Why should we all care?
LL: Reproductive and sexual health issues are not women’s issues. They’re human issues. They impact everyone, because they impact our livelihoods. Our ability to make decisions, our ability to have high quality health care, these are things that are universal. Look, if you’re someone who doesn’t think the decision is a big deal — and I hope it’s not — but what if it is? If the likelihood is that it’s going to be more difficult to access the services you need, then we need to be taking action now. That means having conversations, thinking about current and future contraceptives, and having emergency contraceptives or condoms on hand. These are decisions that we should always be thinking about anyway. That’s what being a sexually healthy person is about. We’re not just thinking about today. We’re thinking about the ability to make good decisions in the future. There’s a chance that could be jeopardized.
HG: What can women in particular do right now to fight to protect our reproductive rights?
LL: We should be doing what we do best, which is talking, writing letters, sharing our stories, and bringing these really common issues to the forefront. Oftentimes when people talk about their sexual health, they say, ‘Well I don’t know anyone who’s needed this,’ or ‘I don’t know anyone who’s had to do that.’ But there are many of us who haven’t yet shared our story, and we need to do so. So when decisions get made and legislators start to think about this appointment, they can look around and say, ‘Wow, you know what, there are millions and millions of people who are impacted by this.’