UUWF Signs On to Interfaith Letters Opposing Supreme Court Nominee
Despite calls to delay hearings on this administration’s second chance to shape the Supreme Court for years to come until after the November elections, or at least until after Senators have had the chance to read through much delayed background documents on the current nominee, the hearings have begun.
Shortly before the beginning of the Senate Judiciary committee proceedings on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) the New York Times published an analysis of how a Supreme Court shaped by Trump could restrict access to abortion. The just-departed Judge Anthony Kennedy was described in the article as a “cautious supporter of abortion rights.” Based on what is known about Kavanaugh, if confirmed “the Supreme Court would have a conservative, five member majority that would most likely sustain sharp restrictions on access to abortion in the United States,” the Times speculated.
Even if this court does not overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide as a constitutional right, this SCOTUS could (in its most extreme rulings and considered very unlikely) rule that fetuses are persons protected by the constitution. Therefore, abortion would be murder. Or the court could abolish the right to privacy, decided in a decision on the legality of contraceptives in 1965, eliminating the legal foundation for the right to abortion as well as birth control and same sex marriage.
Most likely, according to the New York Times analysts, a court with a conservative majority would allow states to impose new restrictions on abortion, reinterpreting what “undue burden” is in terms of access to safe legal abortions. It could “interpret that standard narrowly,” allowing states to impose more and more barriers to access and much more leeway to restrict abortions.
Reproductive rights would, in all likelihood, be under attack for the foreseeable future. Because of these harrowing possibilities, the UUWF has signed on to two letters calling for careful scrutiny of, and pointed questions to, Judge Kavanaugh in the course of Senate deliberations on his nomination to the SCOTUS. One letter focused on separation of church and government and the other, more specifically, on threats to reproductive choice including access to abortion nationwide.
We have joined with 36 other national, faith-based, nontheist, and religious liberty organizations to “share a commitment to individual freedom and the separation of religion and government.” In this letter to all U.S. Senators, we pointed to the dissent Judge Kavanaugh wrote in Priests for Life v U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He sided with a religious organization that argued that filling out a form to request a religious exemption from providing insurance coverage for birth control burdened its religious exercise. He was at odds with eight of the nine federal appeals courts that heard challenges on the same religious exemptions. In our letter, we expressed concerns that Judge Kavanaugh “could require the government to carve out religious exemptions even when they would cause real harm to other people.”
UUWF has signed a second interfaith letter, this one to the Senate Judiciary Committee, stating that “we are deeply troubled by Judge Kavanaugh’s record of statements and decisions on issues related to reproductive health and the right to make private decisions without impediment or imposition.”
“We fear that Judge Kavanaugh, if confirmed, will not uphold the right of each pregnant woman to make the choice for her circumstances—including the choice to seek an abortion—by her own conscience in consultation with her doctor, faith, and values… Judge Kavanaugh’s views on the civil right to choose abortion and the sacred right to bodily autonomy gives us great pause over his confirmation to the highest court of our land.”
“In light of President Trump’s explicit promise to nominate Justices who will overturn Roe, and of Judge Kavanaugh’s past statements and rulings, we urge the Committee to carefully scrutinize Judge Kavanaugh’s entire record and demand clear, direct, and substantive answers. We further hope the Senate will reject any nominee who will not safeguard individual moral agency or the fundamental principles of religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution.”