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As Kavanaugh Awaits Confirmation, Some Fear Future of Abortion Access, Affordable Care Act

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega As Kavanaugh Awaits Confirmation, Some Fear Future of Abortion Access, Affordable Care ActOSU student Mace Hickman protests the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh earlier this September.Photo by Lauren Sega.
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DC isn’t the only place gathering protesters this Tuesday. As the US Senate was holding the first day of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, local activists from a number of organizations gathered outside of Sen. Rob Portman’s office Downtown. They’re calling on Portman, who introduced Kavanaugh at the hearing, and Sen. Sherrod Brown to oppose the judge’s appointment.

Though there were neither handmaids nor arrests, local speakers did touch on the same concerns voiced in Washington, including the threat Kavanaugh poses to abortion access, LGBTQ rights, and environmental welfare.

“The right to access basic reproductive healthcare and safe legal abortion is already at risk in this country. Giving Kavanaugh a seat on the Supreme Court would put us over the edge,” says Mace Hickman, a trans man and fourth-year student at the Ohio State University. “Ohio is one of 20 states prepared to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. That is a terrifying reality that people my age haven’t yet had to face.

Hickman then referenced the 20 abortion and reproductive healthcare restrictions that have been signed into law since Gov. John Kasich took office in 2011, “more than any previous administration.” And Gabriel Mann, of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, cited HB 565, a bill that would outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment. The proposed legislation essentially means Ohio is poised to act swiftly in banning abortions should Kavanaugh take the seat vacated by the late Antonin Scalia.

“Over the past several decades, everybody has looked at this abortions rights debate as a kind of hypothetical. You know, you debated it in your high school debate club,” Mann says. “It’s not hypothetical anymore. It just got real.”

Mann says that although NARAL is certainly protesting Kavanaugh’s appointment, much of the organization’s energy is focused on keeping Ohio Attorney General and candidate for governor Mike DeWine out of office. He says they’re advocating heavily for Democratic candidate Richard Cordray, who’d likely field any abortion restrictions that might land on his desk.

In the broader healthcare discussion, members from Protect Our Care Ohio raised concerns about what Kavanaugh’s appointment could mean for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which he has openly criticized.

A current case, Texas et al. v. United States et al., would declare the ACA’s individual mandate — the part of the law that requires each person to have health insurance or pay a fine — unconstitutional. It’d also place an injunction on the federal government from implementing, regulating and enforcing the healthcare law. This case, brought up against the United States by Texas and 19 other states, is soon headed for the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme court should be a check on President Trump’s war on healthcare, not a rubber stamp on it,” says Amanda Wurst, State Director of Protect Our Care Ohio. “Brett Kavanaugh’s record, especially amid the currently legal challenges to access to health care, makes it clear that a vote to confirm him is a vote to take away our healthcare, period.”

Tuesday was just the first day of hearings the U.S. Senate will conduct in Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, and it didn’t begin or end without a fair share of disruption. Protesters stalled the hearings for an hour, roughly two dozen arrests were made during the proceedings, and activist groups have conveyed they have no intention of letting up.

These hearings are expected to last for three or four days, with one day dedicated to testimony from outside witnesses, and another dedicated to a question-and-answer session between the Senate and Kavanaugh.

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