We Heart: The Reproductive Rights Question That Stumped Brett Kavanaugh

Last week, California Senator Kamala Harris left Judge Brett Kavanaugh speechless at his own confirmation hearing when she asked him about government intrusion into women’s reproductive health care decisions.

Kavanaugh, a conservative nominee with a record of decisions which limit women’s access to sexual and reproductive health care and rights, was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the Supreme Court seat of the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. He was selected from a short list prepared by the far-right Federalist Society, an organization dedicated to boosting the careers of so-called “originalists” who believe the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted now as it was written centuries ago during the nation’s founding—leaving little room for the rights of women, people of color or other marginalized communities.

“Can you think of any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?” Harris asked Kavanaugh–who has ruled against the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit and attempted to block a minor in immigration detention from receiving an abortion.

Kavanaugh, looking confused, responded that he would be “happy to answer a more specific question.” Holding back laughter, Harris pushed back. “I will repeat the question,” she declares. “Can you think of any laws that give the government the power to make decisions about the male body.” At last, Kavanaugh relented. “I’m not, uh, I’m not, uh, thinking of any right now, Senator,” he admitted.

Harris’ question never mentions abortion or birth control, but it still powerfully reminded those in the chamber and those watching the hearings across the country just how much is at stake for the nation as the Senate prepares to make a decision on his nomination. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to a lifetime position on the Supreme Court could dramatically undermine women’s rights for generations; he could even become the decisive fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In our fall issue, award-winning author Amanda Hollis-Brusky takes stock not just of the threats Kavanaugh poses should he be confirmed, but of the efforts by Trump to stack the federal courts, at every level, with nominees just like him. Become a Ms. member to read our urgent report on what’s ahead for the judiciary.


Cori Bratby-Rudd is an eclectic writer from the Bay Area. She graduated Cum Laude from UCLA’s Gender Studies department, and is a current MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Cal Arts. Cori enjoys incorporating themes of emotional healing and social justice into her works. She is currently living in the Los Angeles area and has been published in Ms. Magazine, The Gordian Review, Califragile, among many others. She recently won the Editorial Choice Award for her research paper in Audeamus Academic Journal and was nominated as one of Lambda Literary's 2018 Emerging Writers. Her writing also appears on her website: www.coribratbyrudd.com