Last Saturday, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as the 114th Associate Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice John Roberts. Outside, protesters pushed past a police line and pounded on the doors of the U.S. Supreme Court chanting, “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Kavanaugh has got to go.”
Kavanaugh’s confirmation was the final chapter in a series of hearings that brought back memories of the confirmation process of Clarence Thomas. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s poignant but uncorroborated testimony will stay for a long time in the collective memory of our country. The Senate voted to confirm Kavanaugh, mostly along party lines, 50 to 48. Only one Democrat – Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia – supported Kavanaugh.
At the heart of the confirmation battle was not the media-driven he-said/she-said about allegations of sexual assault, but rather the issue that has been lurking beneath the surface since the day he was nominated – the fate of abortion laws in America.
People on both sides of the debate think Judge Kavanaugh will give the Supreme Court a solid conservative, pro-life majority. They hope or fear – depending on their stance – that Judge Kavanaugh will bring about an overturn of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion in the United States.
For the pro-life movement in the U.S., it was a long hoped-for and prayed-for victory. Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said: “Today the United States Supreme Court has gained an exceptional Justice in Brett Kavanaugh. March for Life is grateful to Justice Kavanaugh and his family for persevering through this most difficult confirmation process.”
From the Catholic – but not only Catholic – point of view, abortion is an abomination and a tragedy. For anybody that recognizes the personhood of the unborn, abortion is unparalleled in the so-called culture wars. Abortion is wrong not only because it denies the most essential human right to the unborn, but also because of the moral damage it causes.
In “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life), Pope St. John Paul II says: “I would like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope.”
Abortion has been a central political issue in this country since the 1960s. An eventual overturn of Roe v. Wade would not end abortion in America, but it would revert the issue to state legislatures.
In a few years, we could have a country divided along abortion lines. Large, populous, liberal coastal states would keep abortion legal, while the traditionally conservative flyover states could become staunch pro-life territory with strict laws against abortion. In that case – and in practical terms – abortion would remain legal. And the country would become even more divided than it is now.
While it is natural that the pro-life movement saluted the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh as a reason for hope, we can’t forget that the real battle is fought in the hearts and minds of those who must decide whether to accept or reject the new life they have brought into existence.