Skip to content Skip to footer

Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Is About “Life and Death for Women”

Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at, discusses more.

As news of sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh breaks, his stance on Roe v. Wade is also under scrutiny. The New York Times reports that it received several leaked documents ahead of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings earlier this month, including an email in which Kavanaugh questioned the accuracy of calling Roe v. Wade the “settled law of the land.” We speak with Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at; and Ian Millhiser, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the justice editor of ThinkProgress.


AMY GOODMAN: We just lost Ian on this issue. But Dahlia, you’re covering this very same beat about what Susan Collins can do.

DAHLIA LITHWICK: Two important things that Ian just said that are really worth reiterating. These folks don’t have to vote no on Kavanaugh; all they have to do is vote no on Kavanaugh until we find out what happened. That is an awfully low-risk proposition given, as Ian said, pretty credible allegations that something very violent happened to this woman. That is the first thing.

The second thing, and this is so important, is that this really does give cover to people like Collins and Murkowski who have been playing this game of saying, “OK, I get it, he was put on the court to overturn Roe, but I don’t think he’s going to do it” and the sort of fatuous claims that they believe him when he says Roe is good precedent. This gives them cover. They don’t have to guess what he’s going to do the future. All they need to do is scrutinize what is alleged to have happened in the past. That is a much easier proposition for them.

AMY GOODMAN: And what Ian Millhiser tweeted — ”So to summarize, a confessed serial sexual predator nominated a man who is credibly accused of attempted rape to be the key vote to strip women of reproductive freedom” — which brings us back to the issue that both you and Ian wrote about, and that is this issue of Roe v. Wade and what Brett Kavanaugh is saying right until now. We talked about his story of Facebook and censorship and fact checking and what is called fake news and what isn’t, but the substance of the point that you wrote about on Roe v. Wade and what we understand Brett Kavanaugh has said, right until now in 2018?

DAHLIA LITHWICK: It’s so important, Amy. It’s the most important piece of this. This is a person who there was no doubt — Donald Trump was unequivocal. When he ran for office, he said “I will put someone on the court who will overturn Roe.” Donald Trump also talked about punishing women who had abortions. He was clear. Then he put someone on the court who has quite an extensive history of writing in praise, for instance, of Justice Rehnquist’s dissent in Roe. It’s not unclear —

AMY GOODMAN: And that was Neil Gorsuch.

DAHLIA LITHWICK: Well, no — and now, Kavanaugh. He has explicitly picked someone who has spoken, who has written in the Garza case about abortion on demand. All the code words are there.

AMY GOODMAN: The Garza case — the immigrant woman who wanted to have an abortion who was being held in Texas, and ultimately did succeed in getting one, but Kavanaugh actually wrote that she shouldn’t.

DAHLIA LITHWICK: Right. He would have put up new, imaginary roadblocks, having — she had kind of done everything she had to do under the law, and he constructed new tests that would have made it virtually impossible for her to procure an abortion. All of this happens. And the pro-life groups, by the way, pushing him out and celebrating him — ”This is the beginning of the end. Roe ends.” And then he gets on the stand and says, “I’m not going to do anything to Roe.” And we have had to accept that.

If you think about the visuals of those confirmation hearings, of women dressed up as the Handmaid’s Tale, women being dragged — 200 woman being dragged screaming from the Senate — and you can say, “Oh, this is not decorous, and this is not polite.” But this is life and death for women. And to say, “Oh, I have an open mind” with the history that he has, that’s the central issue that we’re losing a little bit now in conversations about whether he told the truth or even this conversation.

There is no doubt what will happen to women’s reproductive healthcare. You can call it what you want to call it. You can call it reversing Roe. You can call it hollowing out Roe. We know where he stands. And the notion that this is going to be a hard question for Collins and Murkowski who claim to be for reproductive rights–this just got a lot easier for them. Now they just have to say “We should hear this woman out.”

AMY GOODMAN: And we will see what happens, whether Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is able to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee to talk about what she alleges is Brett Kavanaugh’s attempted rape of her. Dahlia Lithwick, I want to thank you for being with us, senior editor at, and Ian Millhiser, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go south to Texas to the story of a man who was in his apartment, a police officer enters his apartment thinking it is her own and shoots him dead. We will talk about what happened next. Stay with us.

Countdown is on: We have 8 days to raise $46,000

Truthout has launched a necessary fundraising campaign to support our work. Can you support us right now?

Each day, our team is reporting deeply on complex political issues: revealing wrongdoing in our so-called justice system, tracking global attacks on human rights, unmasking the money behind right-wing movements, and more. Your tax-deductible donation at this time is critical, allowing us to do this core journalistic work.

As we face increasing political scrutiny and censorship for our reporting, Truthout relies heavily on individual donations at this time. Please give today if you can.