The past few weeks—as well as the last year—have left many people slack-jawed. We sit in disbelief, or march in anger, and claw at our way to understanding any of the misfortune and heartbreak that has followed since Trump entered office. And most recently, we are shaken by the Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh hearing, or rather, his job interview before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez accused the nominee of sexual misconduct and the live testimony from Dr. Ford was palpable and unfortunately all too familiar for many women around the country. The result of the hearing is essential to the future of women’s health in the United States because if confirmed, Kavanaugh would be responsible for the lives of women all over the country. His confirmation would influence Roe v. Wade, contraceptives (which he described as “abortion-inducing drugs”), and the Affordable Care Act, which would cut health coverage. This would not only be a women’s health concern, but a human rights issue.
Reality bites, and it bites hard. And our reality is that Kavanaugh will probably be confirmed due to Republicans being in the majority in the Senate.
Shadeen Francis, marriage and family therapist specializing in sex therapy and social justice says, “This is a time when women are fighting for their voices to be heard, for their bodies to be kept safe, and for their boundaries to be respected.” She says, “The judicial confirmation of a man under investigation for sexual assault could certainly result in anxiety, depression, and trauma symptoms. The lasting impacts on mental health are reaching and depend very much on the individual, but it would not be surprising for there to be a collective grieving amongst communities of women, as well as feelings of disillusionment, fear, or rage.”
Overall, during his hearing, Kavanaugh side-stepped questions and answered them in a roundabout manner. On the topic of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, Kavanaugh did not discuss whether or not he would uphold the landmark decision. In his 2016 election, Trump vowed to appoint a judge who would overthrow Roe v. Wade, which makes it easy to believe that Kavanaugh thinks on par with Trump’s campaign message. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, it also means that five men will have the ability, and the power, to overthrow Roe v. Wade, essentially removing a woman’s right to have a safe abortion and putting abortion into the final decision of the individual states. As a result, more than half of the states would not have an abortion clinic in their state which would affect low-income women.
“I understand the importance of the issue, and I understand the importance that people attach to the Roe v. Wade decision … I don’t live in a bubble,” said Kavanaugh without completely answering the questions as to whether he would dismantle Roe v. Wade or not.
Moreover, Kavanaugh could threaten environmental measures as well, with his support of SeaWorld. And he also supported a New York company which was accused of “union-busting and violating workers’ rights.”
Dr. Logan Levkoff, an expert on sexuality, said, “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 Supreme Court.”
So what does this all mean? It means we have to vote, we have to pay attention to the election, and we must enact change. Dr. Levkoff explained that preparing for a change in human rights is never a bad idea: “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.”
Contacting your senators by calling, writing, texting, or appearing in person at their office is the first step to protecting our access to abortion and contraceptives. Celina Lake, the president of Lake Research Partners says, “I think it will definitely have an impact on women of color and on millennial women who are incredibly energized on this issue, unmarried women, and Democratic women.”
It means our future is at risk. What would a world without Roe v. Wade look like? As history has seen before, women will die, the poor will suffer the most, and women will be imprisoned. We have already lived this world once, we don’t want to live it again. The long-rooted history of the chauvinistic white man has been interfering with human rights, a woman’s body, and our future for far too long.
Featured photo by Roya Ann Miller on Unsplash