Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court cements a five-to-four conservative judicial majority, which could enable the overturn of Roe v. Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to access abortion. The overturn of Roe would further systematize misogyny and gender discrimination in the United States. Likewise, it would compound the pain of countless American women who have been traumatized and angered by Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, in which she alleged that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a 1982 high school party in Maryland.
I hope — perhaps in vain — that the Supreme Court exercises ideological restraint and upholds the precedent of Roe. Should the majority of the Justices choose otherwise, American society would regress to an even darker age of patriarchal dominance over women’s bodily autonomy.
While I am pro-choice, I respect the moral and philosophical complexity of abortion. But this much is simple: If abortion is legal, those who oppose the operation are in no way forced to participate in abortion themselves. On the other hand, in jurisdictions where abortion is outlawed, women who would otherwise access abortion are forced to give birth against their will — or to choose a potentially unsafe, illegal abortion option. Hence, the legalization of abortion does not impede the individual liberties of those morally opposed to the operation, but prohibiting abortion limits the reproductive rights of women.
Nonetheless, many who oppose abortion have tried to justify a legal restriction on the operation by claiming abortion is equivalent to “murder.” But the abortion-is-murder argument is intellectually disingenuous. Even if one believes “life” or “personhood” begins at conception, it is illogical to equate abortion with homicide; the moral intent, social impact, and medical nature of abortion are categorically distinct from those of criminal violence.
In reality, most arguments against abortion access are rooted in grotesque misogyny. Many social conservatives believe women who experience an unwanted pregnancy deserve to suffer the consequences of their sexual behavior — meaning that these women must survive the physical and psychological torment of maintaining a pregnancy and giving birth against their will. Eliminating access to abortion, therefore, is part of a process to punish women for expressing their sexuality.
Furthermore, let us not forget what an America without legal abortion access — that is, America before Roe — looked like. When abortion was criminalized in the United States, many women still pursued the operation. While most pre-Roe abortions were safely performed by physicians, some women died from the operation, as pre-Roe abortions were not regulated to ensure safety. In fact, in 1965, “illegal abortion still accounted for 17 [percent] of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth,” according to the Guttmacher Institute. If Roe is overturned, women will be forced to choose between continuing an unwanted pregnancy or reverting to a secretive, illegal abortion. The former may risk their physical health or even their life, while the latter puts them in legal jeopardy and could be medically hazardous or even fatal.
Accordingly, the overturn of Roe would condemn countless American women to unwanted parenthood, potentially unsafe, illegal abortions — and in the most extreme cases, physical injury or death. At this point, though, the Supreme Court can still decide to uphold the precedent of Roe and therefore protect a woman’s constitutional right to abortion access.
More specifically, I hope Justice Kavanaugh, who could be the decisive vote on a potential lawsuit against Roe, will do the right thing: If Kavanaugh is guilty of sexual assault, as Christine Blasey Ford alleges, I hope he begins his atonement by upholding Roe. And if Kavanaugh is innocent of sexual assault, as he claims, I hope he will be all the more motivated to protect women’s bodily autonomy.
One day, Kavanaugh’s two daughters — like many children — will hold their father accountable and ask him if he is the “good” man he now claims to be. At the very least, I hope the Supreme Court Justice can look his daughters in the eye and say that he has done everything he could to maintain their constitutional rights as women and human beings.
Samuel Aftel is a junior from East Northport, N.Y. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.