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American women need to see the full paper trail of Brett Kavanaugh

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© Provided by The Hill

By Shilpa Phadke, opinion contributor, The Hill

The decades-long goal of the anti-choice movement to gut and overturn Roe v. Wade has never been closer to reality. Conservative justices have used smokescreens to hide their positions on women's rights, without a single one admitting their position openly. That's why President Trump and Senate Republicans are so determined to quickly ram through a nominee who would tip the balance of the Supreme Court and finish the job, all with one last act of obfuscation.

But this time, there is too much at stake to rely on rhetoric and assurances of respect for "precedence." Sen. Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) may be on a mission to cherry pick how much the public is entitled to know of President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, but that doesn't mean we have to accept it. We have to learn as much as we can about Judge Brett Kavanaugh's record and motivations.

[post_ads]President Trump bragged about his plan to only appoint justices who would overturn Roe and the need for "some kind of punishment" for women, yet suddenly claims ignorance as to where his own nominee stands. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader McConnell is trying to jam Kavanaugh through the process without giving the Senate due access and time to review his record as they have for every other Supreme Court nominee. It's particularly absurd given McConnell is reported to have privately urged President Trump not to nominate Kavanaugh, specifically because his "paper trail" would reveal too much about his record and true motivations.

There is no excuse for this. This is a lifetime appointment that will alter our country forever, potentially stripping women of the right to control their own bodies while changing the lives, health, and economic trajectories for millions of women. In the years since the right to privacy was recognized to include the right to access birth control and abortion care, women's economic power has grown several times over. To suggest that the Senate is simply too impatient to take the time to do its job is an outrageous insult to every one of us.

We already know enough about Judge Kavanaugh to know that he is dangerous to women. Kavanaugh lavished praise on the dissent in Roe. He wrote an opinion trying to force a young immigrant woman to carry her pregnancy against her will. And he was hand-picked to fill the Supreme Court vacancy from a list drafted by anti-choice special interest groups. Kavanaugh has spent his career as a Washington political operative, pushing for gutting Roe's protections on the bench, in speeches, and in the George W. Bush White House.

The most central example was his time in the Bush White House, which took an aggressively political and partisan approach to women's health under the helm of Karl Rove. It embraced the strategy of speaking in code by using misleading phrases like "abortion on demand" as they stacked the courts with anti-choice judges who would decide those cases, including Justice Samuel Alito. Bush appointed Alito to the Supreme Court, a man who cleverly dodged questions on abortion during his own confirmation hearing but has proven to be a steadfast voice for the anti-choice movement on the court. The federal government was oriented toward undermining Roe, just as it is now.

At the dead center of all of that, according to Rove himself, is Kavanaugh. There's still much we don't know about him, however. There are some outstanding questions that Kavanaugh's records could help answer. Kavanaugh has stated that he vetted judicial nominees for President Bush, but did he apply a litmus test to judges that he vetted and helped nominate, or cater those nominations to the movement to gut and overturn Roe v. Wade?

Kavanaugh was also staff secretary during the selection of Justice Alito, who acknowledged Roe as precedent during his confirmation hearings but has consistently voted against women's right to choose since joining the court. What was Kavanaugh's reasoning for supporting his boss's selection of Alito? Did Kavanaugh help engineer Justice Alito's approach to answering questions on Roe? Was this strategy part of a calculated attempt to obscure Alito's true intentions once confirmed?
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As staff secretary, Kavanaugh was a powerful gatekeeper, often "in the room" for the most senior level meetings and providing direction for President Bush's words and actions, including final speech deliberations. As a senior member of President Bush's staff, he also helped set the tone for the entire White House: In his daily conversations, what role did he play in exploring ways to methodically undermine access to abortion so as to functionally overturn Roe v. Wade without needing to actually do so, a cause he would almost certainly embrace on the Supreme Court?

The movement to gut and overturn Roe v. Wade, for which Kavanaugh has practically auditioned in recent years for this nomination, has had spectacular success by hiding its true motives just enough to avoid being called out. The anti-choice movement has engineered four of the five justices they need on the court, several with support of Republican senators who say they are pro-choice.

With Trump attempting to confirm the fifth vote to gut and overturn Roe - despite overwhelming opposition to him and his appointment from women - let's put all the records out there in plain sight. No more picking and choosing how much the public is privileged to know about a lifetime appointed justice on the high court. Let the American people, but especially American women, see what President Trump and Senator McConnell are trying to hide in Kavanaugh's paper trail.

Shilpa Phadke is the vice president of the women's initiative at the Center for American Progress. She served in the White House as special assistant to the president for Cabinet affairs during the Obama administration.

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