Staff Column: Women’s Rights are Human Rights, right Judge Kavanaugh?

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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

I remember a few months ago, walking into the kitchen to see my mom with a disturbed look on her face. After a few moments, she looked up and said that now was the real time to worry.  Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy had announced his retirement. I knew this meant whoever Trump’s nominee would be, he or she would likely not support a woman’s right to choose. I had grown up assuming that this right, once acknowledged by the highest court, would always be protected; but now I understood that it was threatened.  I felt this shock physically. This is not an exaggeration or a literary technique. I promise you I felt a real pit in my stomach and real tears well up in my eyes. My mind was so submerged in fear, it felt like I couldn’t move. My reaction mimicked my feelings on November 8th, 2016 when Donald Trump won the presidential election. Genuine angst rushed through my body; what would women do about unwanted pregnancies? How expensive will birth control be, if available at all? Will women resort to back alley, coat hanger abortions? Questions scrambled my brain.

Now, I am writing to tell you that it’s worse than I feared.  Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh, United States Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and a prominent lawyer who served under former president George W. Bush as White House Staff Secretary.

Justice Kennedy had served as a buffer between the other eight justices, four of whom hold largely conservative ideologies and four of whom hold liberal ideologies. Kennedy was nicknamed the “swing vote” as his vote normally determined the direction in which the court would rule on a hearing. If Kavanaugh is to be confirmed, the American people are looking at a court that clearly leans right and has the power to erode and overturn previous court decisions, undoing the progress made by marginalized groups, employees, labor unions and women over the course of our judicial history.

In this discussion of women’s rights, I am referring most obviously to the landmark case Roe v. Wade which recognized women’s ownership of their bodies and the right to choose whether or not to terminate pregnancies. This decision was fueled by women and male supporters who passionately took to the streets to fight against patriarchal America. This beautiful display of activism and the legal progress it spurred is in serious danger and we should all be appropriately concerned.

We should be even more concerned that not only is the Supreme Court nominee a threat to women’s rights, but he has been credibly accused of sexual assault by three different women. One of which, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testified in front of  the Senate Judiciary Committee, comprised of 17 men and just four women. It is important to recognize that Kavanaugh’s accuser did not intend to publicly claim allegations against the nominee. Unfortunately, her confidential allegations, once sent by the ranking member to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), were leaked to the press, revealing Dr. Ford’s identity. In turn, Dr. Ford agreed to testify before the senate committee despite her immense fear and trauma. In her testimony, she recounted the threatening messages she and her family have received in the wake of her name becoming public. She detailed the trauma she and her family have endured including having to leave their home and utilize guards due to threats and invasions of privacy.

In recent days, Republican members of the senate committee and the President himself, have publicly maligned Dr. Ford and attacked her credibility. Is it surprising that the nomination of someone who poses a threat to women’s rights has been linked to real attacks by powerful men on a woman sharing her pain? Are we to assign coincidence to an attack on one woman and a threat to all? What does this say to us, college age citizens, who came of age believing that women’s rights really were human rights? I wish this column offered answers to these questions and all the others that are swirling in these final days of this nomination. Unfortunately, like many of my friends, especially my female friends, and like Dr. Ford, I have no answers and I feel unheard.

However, one message is especially clear to me after watching the events of the past few weeks: women are still considered second class citizens in this country. While I always regarded myself as someone who had a heightened awareness of the de facto sexism and discriminatory treatment of women in the “free nation,” this nomination has shown me how much work still desperately needs to be done to achieve a fairer society. We all are responsible for protecting a woman’s right to her own body and we all should be prepared to take to the streets again, to ensure that the people interpreting the laws of this country respect women and their inalienable rights.


Maggie McGuire is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at margaret.mcguire@uconn.edu.

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