Throughout his campaign, Trump vowed to appoint Supreme Court Justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. Overturning Roe would be catastrophic, but unfortunately, there is so much more at stake with Trump’s nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Cut from the Republican Establishment, Kavanaugh has spent his entire Court career favoring corporations and the mega wealthy over the interests of regular people – especially women.
Kavanaugh has consistently ruled for corporations over the interests of regular people by regularly letting corporations slide as they pollute air and waterways vital to public health. Corporate exploitation of communities can lead to a host of complications for pregnant women, including fertility problems and birth defects.
In the 2014 case of White Stallion Energy Center v. EPA, White Stallion challenged an EPA regulation that placed limits on the plant’s mercury pollutants, as mercury in the airways is toxic for the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and it damages the lungs, skin, eyes, and kidneys. It is considered a top ten chemical of major concern to public health by the World Health Organization.
Despite scientific evidence, Kavanaugh dissented from the decision to uphold the EPA regulation and sided with the coal plant. He thought lowering the business expenses of a major coal corporation was more important than protecting innocent people from disastrous health outcomes.
In Mingo Logan Coal Co. v. EPA, Kavanaugh ruled similarly. In this case, the EPA revoked Logan Coal’s permit to dump waste at a specific mining site because the dumping had an “unacceptable adverse effect” on the environment. The waste from the dumping site had made its way into waterways, dirtying water essential to people living in Appalachian communities.
Although the majority upheld the EPA regulation, Kavanaugh dissented, arguing that the EPA should have considered the costs for the coal company before penalizing its dumping. If Kavanaugh had his way, the coal company would have continued to destroy water sources necessary for people living in that region.
Kavanaugh’s insistence on prioritizing industrial costs to basic environmental protections is dangerous to women – especially low-income and minority women, who are disproportionately affected by unsafe drinking water.
In Flint, Michigan, for example, fewer women were able to get pregnant due to unclean, lead-ridden drinking water. Of those able to conceive, they saw a 58 percent increase in fetal death. Higher levels of lead in drinking water damages a fetus’s nervous system, which can cause miscarriages and stillbirths, the CDC said.
Likewise, polluted air is a huge risk factor in developing lung disease, heart disease, high blood pressure and asthma. These diseases are the most common in women over the age of 50.
Public safety concerns mean nothing to Kavanaugh. Time and time again, he has proven that he would rather reduce industry costs than help low-income communities secure access to clean water and air.
The Supreme Court has made it clear that the Second Amendment is not a free for all, and most judges have taken this to heart.
In its 2008 landmark decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court struck down a DC law that banned handguns in the home, but cautioned that the Second Amendment is not unlimited, explaining it “is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
Since then, lower courts have rejected challenges to common sense gun laws 93 percent of the time, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Judges appointed by both Republicans and Democrats have overwhelmingly rejected challenges seeking to overturn regulations like minimum age laws, risk-based gun removal laws and assault weapon bans, to name a few.
Judge Kavanaugh, who for 12 years has sat on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, is not most judges.
After the 2008 decision in Heller, DC passed another set of laws that prohibited assault weapons. Richard Heller, the same plaintiff from 2008, once again sued, arguing that these new laws violated the Second Amendment. In 2011, a three-judge panel of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines was constitutional.
Kavanaugh was the lone dissenter. If Kavanaugh had gotten his way, the will of DC residents would have been ignored, and the assault weapons ban would have been overturned. In Kavanaugh’s dissent, he argued that there is no meaningful distinction between handguns and assault weapons, despite the fact that bullets from weapons like the AR-15 travel 3 times faster than handgun bullets and are designed to shoot off exponentially more rounds in a shorter period of time.
By judging Second Amendment challenges based on “history and tradition,” as opposed to public health concerns, Kavanaugh is likely to rule against gun laws that were not intended by the founding fathers. This is dangerous for women, who are uniquely vulnerable to gun violence.
The chance of a woman in an abusive household being killed by her partner quintuples when a gun is in the home. Approximately 600 women a year are killed by an intimate partner with a gun, and 4.5 million women report having been intimidated or coerced with a gun by an intimate partner.
Mass shooters have also been known to terrorize public places because of hatred or resentment towards women. In the school shootings in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, the killers were motivated by anger towards girls who had previously rejected them.
Women stand the most to lose the most from Kavanaugh’s extremist view of the Second Amendment as gun violence and women’s violence are explicitly overlapping issues. Laws from universal background checks to taking guns out of the hands of domestic abusers are critical to securing women’s and public health.
As more and more states implement gun laws following the Parkland shooting, challenges to these laws could give Kavanaugh the opportunity to write a sweeping opinion striking down restrictions on guns and gun ownership.
Diluting Political Representation
Judge Kavanaugh has written six opinions supporting the role of big donors in political campaigning.
In a 2005 case, Kavanaugh struck down a rule that set federal campaign contribution limits on interest groups participating in campaign advocacy, paving the way for the creation of Super PACs.
Kavanaugh ruled that interest groups should be able to independently raise and spend an unlimited amount of money to support political candidates. He believes that giving every citizen an equal voice in the political process does not justify setting contribution and spending limits on big donors.
This prioritization of big donors over the American democratic process silences the voices of women, since the majority of wealth in America is controlled by men. Women make up only 17 percent of the top one percent of earners.
Allowing individuals and Super PACs to spend an unlimited amount of money on elections also reduces women’s chances at being elected to office. In comparable elections, male candidates tend to outraise female candidates. And in terms of donations, men almost exclusively donate to male candidates.
With Kavanaugh on the bench, campaign finance laws will continue to deregulate, deepening this systemic gender inequality in government.
This is no single-issue matter – Kavanaugh’s judgeship puts women at risk across issue-areas. As a judge, his views put women in danger of dying at the hands of a gun, losing access to clean drinking water, and becoming completely disenfranchised in government, to name a few. We must stop Kavanaugh.