Murray has launched a campaign asking people to share their stories about Roe v. Wade, amid concern that the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would make very real the possibility that abortion rights could be overturned.
Sen. Patty Murray has never sounded so worried in her life.
That’s saying a lot, considering that she’s served in the U.S. Senate for 26 years, fighting for any number of issues with any number of knuckleheads.
But the nomination of D.C. federal appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has Murray especially spooked. So much so that she took to the Senate floor recently to state on the record: If this man gets in, women are in Big Trouble.
” … a vote for President Trump’s Judge Kavanaugh is a vote to go back to the days when women had to go into back alleys for health care,” Murray said in her speech. “When women had to ask for permission, when women were shamed and when women, and girls, died because of the laws of our land. We unfortunately already know all too well what this looks like because there are states nationwide where extreme politicians have chipped away at women’s health-care rights and have been waiting for exactly this moment — for someone exactly like Judge Kavanaugh — to go even further.”
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Kavanaugh would create a conservative majority that could be more willing to uphold state restrictions on abortion, if not overturn Roe v. Wade. He has called the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist — one of the two dissenting justices to vote against Roe — his “first judicial hero,” and indicated that he believed abortion is not a constitutional right guaranteed by the 14th amendment.
Worse, he would have the blessing of a president who said there should be “some sort punishment” for women who had abortions if it were outlawed. Trump has also called Planned Parenthood “an abortion factory” — even though abortions make up less than 10 percent of its services.
I wondered aloud whether Trump has ever been a part of a woman’s decision to have an abortion.
Murray wouldn’t go there when we spoke the other day. But she did get personal just the same, telling me about the college friend who went out on a date, was raped and got pregnant. She had what Murray called a “botched procedure” that left her unable to bear children.
“I saw my friend hurt, frightened, alone and unable to get the care she needed because someone else’s beliefs mattered more under our laws than her health and her future,” Murray said. “That impacted me a lot, and has stayed with me to this day.”
This week, Murray launched a campaign asking people to share their own stories about Roe v. Wade to bolster her fight against Kavanaugh, and the very real possibility that abortion rights could be overturned.
“Throughout my whole career, I have felt like, ‘We could lose this vote today,’ but we have always managed to raise our voices up,” Murray told me. “But now, this will be five men in the Supreme Court who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. And I have never felt this profoundly fearful.”
In the past, she said, Democrats have been able to work the votes in the House or Senate to preserve the right to a safe and legal abortion — a right that was enacted 45 years ago, but has nevertheless felt as unstable as a sapling. Vulnerable. Never off the table.
So Murray took to the Senate floor to reiterate her opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination and to remind her colleagues that “the balance of the court is on the line.”
Kennedy (nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1987) has been the decisive “swing” vote, siding with liberal judges in controversial cases involving gay rights and abortion, and siding with conservatives on issues like corporate campaign spending. There was a bend to him.
But Kavanaugh has been clear on his opposition to Roe v. Wade.
If he is sworn in, the court will be split between the four liberal judges appointed by Democratic presidents, and five conservatives named by Republicans.
“In the past, we’ve been able to work the votes in the House or Senate,” Murray said. “But if that vote goes before the Supreme Court, there is nothing we can do. All we can do is stop this nominee. These are lifetime appointments.”
On the day that Murray learned that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was retiring, she said she felt a certain sadness set in.
“Of all the days I have had here during the Trump administration,” Murray told me, “this was a low point. This is a Supreme Court decision that will impact decades to come.
“I felt it was an important time to make everybody stop and think about the consequences we’re in today.”
Murray’s speech included warnings about how Kavanaugh would follow Trump’s marching orders, and vote to end protections for patients with pre-existing conditions; to give corporations “even more power over our economy, our workers and our elections;” and to eliminate environmental protections.
“I could go on and on,” Murray said.
But for now, she said, she was starting with a woman’s right to choose. And if it meant revealing a personal story, so be it. Whatever it takes to show what’s at stake.
“In all the years that I have fought for pro-choice issues, I haven’t talked a lot about what made such an impact on me,” she said. “I just felt like that was not my story to share.
“But unless I do, and unless other people do, it becomes hidden in the backroom.”
Oh, I hate that term. What I hate even more is that women are giving up their own privacy in an effort to preserve the right to choose. We did it with the #ShoutMyAbortion movement, and Murray is asking us to do it again.
But if that’s what it takes, we’ll do it. When it comes to choice, well, we really don’t have any choice.