This afternoon, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh gave Americans a pretty clear idea of where he stands on reproductive health by wrongly calling birth control "abortion-inducing drugs"—which is a known talking point of anti-choice conservatives.
The moment came when Senator Ted Cruz asked Kavanaugh to describe his 2015 ruling in the case Priests for Life vs HHS, where the plaintiff objected to providing insurance coverage of birth control for its employees, which was required by the Affordable Care Act. The workaround from the Obama administration was that religious non-profits would have to fill out a form saying they objected to coverage and the insurance company would step in and cover the costs.
Kavanaugh replied to Cruz: "In that case, they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objected to."
Watch it starting at 0:43 below:
There are two things wrong here. First, birth control doesn't cause abortions. The very name "contraception" means prevents conception, either by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg, preventing sperm from fertilizing an egg, or preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Medical experts agree that emergency contraception does not disrupt an established pregnancy (the medical and legal definition of pregnancy is that it begins after implantation).
Second, the plaintiff in that case objected to covering ALL forms of birth control, not just emergency contraception, unless it was for "noncontraceptive" purposes (meaning to treat other health issues). Yes, craft store chain Hobby Lobby and others specifically objected to covering emergency contraception methods like morning-after pills and copper IUDs (which can be used for EC), but that's not what Priests for Life was objecting to. No, they were opposed to "any requirement imposed by the federal government that has the purpose or effect of providing access to or increasing the use of contraceptive services."
So either Kavanaugh forgot that the plaintiff objected to all contraception, which is a righteous screw-up on an issue that he knows people are paying extremely close attention to, or he presented the erroneous concept that birth control causes abortions without any qualifiers like "alleged."
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement:
“It’s no wonder Kavanaugh’s nomination has been met with unprecedented protests. Kavanaugh referred to birth control—something more than 95 percent of women use in their lifetime—as an ‘abortion-inducing drug,’ which is not just flat-out wrong, but is anti-woman, anti-science propaganda. Women have every reason to believe their health and their lives are at stake. Kavanaugh has made clear over and over again that he would not uphold women’s ability to access reproductive health care as a constitutional right. Let me break it down for you, Brett: birth control is basic health care. Birth control allows women to plan their futures, participate in the economy, and—for some women with health issues like endometriosis—allows them to get through the day. It is clear from Kavanaugh’s record and answers that his nomination puts access to affordable birth control at risk."
Kavanaugh is supported by anti-choice groups like Susan B. Anthony List, which espouses the inaccurate idea that emergency contraception causes abortion and, on Thursday, the New York Times obtained emails from Kavanaugh's time as a staff attorney in the White House where he advised against calling Roe v. Wade "settled law."
Now he just reminded everyone that it's not only abortion access that's at stake with this nomination, it's access to birth control, too.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of Tonic delivered to your inbox.