Pro-life leaders expressed strong hopes for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has a strong record of upholding religious liberties and restrictions on abortion.
President Donald Trump announced Kavanaugh as his choice to fill retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on Monday evening.
Kavanaugh has served on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for D.C. for more than a decade, where he developed an extensive record of protecting religious liberty and free speech and enforcing restrictions on abortion. Pro-life leaders believe he would do the same on the Supreme Court.
“Judge Kavanaugh’s record, viewed as a whole, indicates a willingness to enforce the rights truly based on the text and history of the Constitution, while otherwise leaving policymaking in the hands of elected legislators,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser praised Kavanaugh as an “outstanding choice” for the highest court in America.
“Judge Kavanaugh is an experienced, principled jurist with a strong record of protecting life and constitutional rights, as evidenced by his opinions in Garza v. Hargan and Priests for Life v. HHS,” Dannenfelser said.
Her group is working with grassroots pro-lifers in battleground states to urge the Senate to confirm Kavanaugh. Republicans narrowly hold the U.S. Senate, but pro-abortion Republicans and pro-life Democrats are facing a huge amount of pressure from the abortion industry and Democrat party leaders to block Trump’s second nominee.
“Vulnerable senators up for re-election this year have a choice: stand with the president and their constituents and confirm a Supreme Court justice who will respect and uphold the Constitution, or cave to pressure from the extreme abortion lobby,” Dannenfelser said. “If every self-avowed pro-life senator votes the right way, Judge Kavanaugh will be confirmed easily.”
A nominee of President George W. Bush to the circuit court, Kavanaugh was confirmed in a 53-36 vote in 2006. He previously clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, but his opinions are said to be more like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who was more conservative.
The new battle over Kavanaugh’s confirmation will be vicious.
“From the day Justice Kennedy retired, the Left has sought to make this vacancy all about abortion – even though many other significant issues are at stake including religious freedom and free speech,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
Perkins pointed to President Barack Obama’s pro-abortion administration, which tried to erode religious freedom through Obamacare, activist judges and other means.
“Judge Kavanaugh resisted this trend in at least two instances — an HHS contraceptive mandate case and in an opinion supporting inauguration prayers,” Perkins said. “Judge Kavanaugh has a long and praiseworthy history of judging as an originalist, and we look forward to having a justice with his philosophical approach on the court.”
Penny Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, warned of the battle ahead to confirm Kavanaugh. She said he could be the deciding vote on cases to end taxpayer funding of abortions, stop forcing people to violate their religious beliefs, restore First Amendment rights and bring America a step closer to ending abortions.
“It’s really not surprising when this nominee could mean the end to their whole abortion ‘industry,’” Nance said. “With so much on the line, the left is going to do everything in their power to stop this nominee, and we need to be ready to help push this conformation through.”
State pro-life leaders also praised Trump’s choice.
Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis commented: “Kavanaugh has a proven judicial record that he will interpret the Constitution as written and will not be an activist justice. We thank President Trump for holding to his promise that he would nominate pro-life Justices to the Court. Ohio Right to Life looks forward to Roe v. Wade being overturned so that Ohio can set its own pro-life policies.”
Heather Weininger, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, added: “D.C. Circuit Court Judge Brent Kavanaugh is an excellent jurist, who understands that the role of judiciary is to interpret the law, not make the law. We thank President Trump for nominating another experienced, originalist jurist who will uphold the Constitution.”
Weininger also promised to hold U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, accountable for siding with the abortion industry on Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“Unfortunately, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin has already signaled that she would rather cave to pressure from the abortion lobby rather than give Judge Kavanaugh due consideration based upon his experience and qualifications,” Weininger said. “Senator Baldwin will be held accountable for her actions during this confirmation process by Wisconsin Right to Life and our grassroots supporters.”
Sarah Pitlyk, a former law clerk to Judge Kavanaugh and special counsel for the Thomas More Society, which is a leading pro-life legal group, previously said Kavanaugh has an excellent record and perhaps the best record of any of the finalists president Trump was considering.
In her profile, Pitlyk mentioned three cases where Judge Kavanaugh came down on the pro-life side:
Take another case that arose this year before the D.C. Circuit, Garza v. Hargan. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Department of Health and Human Services for declining to facilitate an immediate abortion for an unlawful-immigrant minor in federal custody. The district court ruled for the ACLU. On appeal, Judge Kavanaugh and another judge reversed, agreeing with the Trump administration that it did not have to provide an immediate abortion and ordering the district court to give the minor time to find a sponsor so that the government did not have to facilitate the abortion — precisely the relief the administration sought.
When the full D.C. Circuit later vacated that decision and ordered the government to facilitate the abortion immediately, Judge Kavanaugh dissented, stating that the majority had “badly erred” in adopting a “radical extension of the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence.” He again endorsed the Trump administration’s position that it did not have to facilitate an immediate abortion on demand. In his opinion, Judge Kavanaugh emphasized the government’s “permissible interests” in “favoring fetal life” and “refraining from facilitating abortion.”
Kavanaugh ruled against the Obama HHS mandate that forced Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters of the Poor and other Christian-run businesses and organizations to fund abortion drugs in their employee health care plans. He also upheld pro-life free speech in a case involving the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (the Metro).
The 53-year-old judge is married and has two daughters. He is Catholic and serves as a lector at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, D.C. He also volunteers with the St. Maria Meals program at Catholic Charities and has tutored students at the Washington Jesuit Academy.