Louisiana Women’s Rights Hang in Balance as Trump Announces Supreme Court Nominee

NEW ORLEANS, LA—July 10, 2018—Monday night the President announced Judge Brett Kavanaugh, from the federal appeals court in the D.C. Circuit, as his nominee to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court following Justice Kennedy’s retirement at the end of this month. The President made his selection based on a list of candidates provided by conservative organizations with an agenda that includes restricting abortion access. The President also made clear in prior statements that his pick for the Supreme Court will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Judge Kavanaugh’s record shows extreme hostility to an individual’s ability to access reproductive health care. Kavanaugh issued a ruling to allow the government to continue blocking the abortion of a young immigrant woman despite the fact that delay in care would push her to the limit of when state law would allow her to obtain an abortion. After the entire D.C. Circuit overturned his ruling, he doubled down on his arguments in a dissent. His decisions show disdain for young people’s decision-making ability and immigrants’ rights, as well as a lack of concern for the hurdles placed in the path of those seeking an abortion.

In Louisiana, abortion access already hangs by a thread, and reproductive rights advocates are expressing their concerns over shifting the Supreme Court in a more conservative direction. 

“A Supreme Court that leans away from protecting abortion access will be felt here much sooner than in other parts of the country,” warned Ellie Schilling, an attorney and Board President for Lift Louisiana.   

Louisiana has passed several laws in the last few years that are the subject of ongoing legal challenges. One of these, a requirement that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, was argued at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year. A ruling on that law is expected in a matter of weeks, or months; and if the Appeals court upholds the law, then a more conservative Supreme Court may not intervene to block it from taking effect. That would be devastating for abortion access, potentially leaving Louisiana with only one abortion provider.

Lift Louisiana is also concerned about other laws currently being litigated that are more likely to be upheld in the near future, including a 72-hour waiting period and a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of gestation, a law which passed earlier this year.

In this last term, the U.S. Supreme Court issued rulings that sanctioned religious discrimination against abortion care and marriage equality. Judge Kavanaugh voted to allow religious beliefs to override an individual’s right to insurance coverage of birth control.  His reasoning showed that he would give near-absolute deference to claims of religious objection.

“It is alarming to think that Louisiana women will not be able to rely on the protection of the Supreme Court to uphold our rights,” said Michelle Erenberg, Executive Director of Lift Louisiana. Kavanaugh’s nomination is not only a threat to women’s reproductive rights, but to the rights of workers and immigrants as well. He has also suggested the president has the power to block criminal and civil actions against himself, which is concerning because the president nominating him is under investigation and facing multiple lawsuits.”

Appointing a justice even more conservative than Kennedy will change the balance of the court for a generation, which has serious implications for many other issues including voting rights, affirmative action, birth control access, and the Affordable Care Act. Furthermore, this court will likely have to weigh in on issues of executive powers and the ongoing criminal investigation into the President and his campaign.

The Trump Administration and Senate leadership are trying to quickly move this nominee forward without giving the Senators and the public enough time to properly vet the nominee. Lift Louisiana is urging progressive lawmakers, including some in the Republican caucus, to slow the process down and wait to vote on a nominee until the investigation is resolved or at least until after citizens have gotten a chance to cast their ballots in the mid-term elections this November.

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