Two years ago, as the November presidential elections loomed large, conservatives and pro-lifers were breathlessly assuring us all that it was necessary to hold our noses and vote GOP for the sake of those magical supreme court picks, and the promise of making abortion disappear once and for all.
In spite of legal experts’ assurance that simply overturning Roe is not the way these things work, and in spite of the fact that Roe was decided on with a Republican majority court, and in spite of the fact that at no point in any Republican presidency has abortion been made illegal – on the contrary, abortions rates have gone up – we were told that we had to support Trump, because of the supreme court, and thus the babies (but only, it turns out, the unborn ones: once they are born, it is acceptable to kidnap them, and cage them).
Well, now here we are. Trump got Gorsuch, and now, with Justice Kennedy’s retirement, the moment we were told to await has arrived.
Trump’s supreme court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, is probably best remembered for his involvement in Clinton’s impeachment hearings along with Ken Starr back in the 90s. At the time, he argued for holding presidents to high moral standards, but afterwards changed his mind. In a 1998 law review article he argued that it might not be constitutional to allow indictment of a sitting president. As a New York Times piece states:
“My chief takeaway from working in the White House for five and a half years — and particularly from my nearly three years of work as staff secretary, when I was fortunate to travel the country and the world with President Bush — is that the job of president is far more difficult than any other civilian position in government,” he wrote.
He concluded that sitting presidents should not be distracted by civil suits or criminal proceedings. “A president who is concerned about an ongoing criminal investigation,” he wrote, “is almost inevitably going to do a worse job as president.”
Why yes, that’s right. Kavanaugh essentially believes that a sitting president should not be held to the legal standards ordinary citizens must observe. Fascinating. This would be disturbing in any context, but it is especially alarming considering the fact that Trump himself faces charges of criminal misconduct, and that his supporters have already promoted the idea that a president should be above the law. One wonders whether they would have argued similarly had Hillary been elected by the electoral college as well as the popular vote.
Similarly fascinating is the fact that Kavanaugh has stated that he will “respect precedent on abortion.”
Because my own pro-life beliefs emphasize helping women escape from situations in which abortion is desirable, I don’t have a lot invested in whether or not Roe is overturned, since either way we face ethical issues. But it is interesting to see where Trump’s first priorities lie: not with any attempt to protect unborn life, however clumsy, but rather with protecting his precious self.
Pro-choice feminists who have been worrying about Roe being overturned probably need not fear on that account, but the continued legality of abortion seems like it could only be cold comfort to them, when the circumstances that drive women to seek abortion will continue to be exacerbated by an administration with a social darwinist, ethno-nationalist, and eugenic agenda – insofar as it has any agenda at all, other than further inflating the ego of Donald Trump.
image credit: https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2006/06/images/20060601-4_d-0327-3-565v.html