Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has spent most of his confirmation hearings this week trying to avoid giving any insight into his views on abortion and Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized the procedure nationwide. But on Wednesday, Kavanaugh referred to birth control as “abortion-inducing,” sparking outrage from Planned Parenthood.
Kavanaugh’s comment arrived after Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz asked Kavanaugh about his dissent in Priests for Life v. the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which Kavanaugh ruled on in 2015 while serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Eleven religious organizations sued over the Affordable Care Act, arguing that a mandate requiring employers to provide contraceptive coverage violated their religious freedoms. Employers who wanted out of the mandate had to send a form to their insurers, who would then ensure that employees could still get their birth control covered.
Filling out that form, religious groups said, made them complicit in providing contraception.
While the D.C. Circuit court ruled in favor of the Obama administration, denying the religious groups a chance to argue their case before the entire panel, Kavanaugh dissented from the majority.
“The question was first was this a substantial burden on their religious exercise? And it seemed to me, quite clearly, it was,” Kavanaugh explained Thursday. “They said filling out the form would make them complicit in the abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objected to.”
That phrase — ”abortion-inducing drugs” — is inaccurate and, in the eyes of abortion rights advocates, incredibly telling. In their brief to the Supreme Court, which eventually heard the case, Priests for Life and its fellow plaintiffs argued that they didn’t want to “affirmatively authorize, and facilitate coverage for contraception, sterilization, abortifacients, and related education and counseling.”
However, hormonal contraception, which Priests for Life also opposed, does not induce abortions. And characterizing it as such in a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, advocates say, signals Kavanaugh’s true feelings about women’s access to reproductive health care.
“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,” Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. “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.”
Cover image: Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill September 6, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.