STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

If young voters care about reproductive rights, they'd better vote in November

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who has spent the last several weeks battling disturbing accusations of sexual viol...

Posted: Oct 10, 2018 9:31 AM
Updated: Oct 10, 2018 9:31 AM

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who has spent the last several weeks battling disturbing accusations of sexual violence, is now one of the most powerful people in America. While his appointment to the US Supreme Court is devastating for much of the population, it is easy to forget what a triumphant victory it represents for many others.

Upon hearing the news of Kavanaugh's confirmation, a West Virginia city councilman named Eric Barber posted to a private Facebook group: "Better get you're (sic) coat hangers ready liberals."

Abortion

Abortion rights

Elections and campaigns

Government and public administration

Health and medical

Medical treatments and procedures

Politics

Sexual and reproductive health

Societal issues

Society

Voters and voting

Brett Kavanaugh

Donald Trump

Government bodies and offices

Government organizations - US

Political Figures - US

US federal court system

US federal government

US Supreme Court

Barber, who is a devout Christian, was referring to a sometimes lethal (and by no means extinct) method of DIY abortion used by desperate women for whom safer legal methods are not available. He later deleted the comment. A fellow councilman has since come forward to say that Barber's post was a callback to an incident in Washington earlier this autumn, when a pro-choice activist threw a coat hanger in his face. Barber, who quit the Democratic Party last year citing its "anti-Christian rhetoric," has yet to apologize for his remarks.

Barber's language is extreme, but many Americans agree with his basic sentiment that abortion is wrong, and that nominally religious values ought to be reflected in the political discourse. It is no wonder, then, that he and so many others are delighted with the Supreme Court's newest appointee.

On the flipside, the potential for regressive, draconian reform which now rests in Kavanaugh's hands should shock and galvanize every young person who has hitherto taken their rights for granted. And while there is little the American public can now do about the Supreme Court, it will soon have a say in the makeup of Congress in the midterm elections. This is the remaining opportunity to dilute what might otherwise become an entirely conservative federal government.

According to a June poll, only 28% of young voters say they will definitely vote in the midterms, compared with 74% of seniors. When it comes to issues like reproductive rights, which do not directly affect the elderly, this disparity leaves young people incredibly vulnerable to the whims of people who will not have to live with the consequences of their vote.

Young voters -- even those registered as independent -- are much more likely to lean toward the Democrats, who are mostly supportive of abortion, and for whom turnout will be key in the midterms. And there is some good news -- in the latest CNN poll, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent voters say they are enthusiastic to vote in November. The most recent red wash of the executive and judiciary arms of government should therefore inspire serious urgency in young Americans to hit the ballot boxes and affect the legislature where they can.

Kavanaugh gives supporters of abortion reason to worry. In a 2003 memo, Kavanaugh wrote that the Supreme Court "can always overrule" Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision recognizing a woman's right to legally terminate pregnancies anywhere in the United States. (Before Roe, women could legally get abortions in some states.) Last year, Kavanaugh called late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who notably voted against Roe in 1973, his "first judicial hero," and lauded his efforts to stem "the general tide of freewheeling judicial creation of unenumerated rights".

He also replaces Anthony Kennedy, a center-right and broadly socially liberal justice who has wielded the decisive vote in rulings, including the upholding of Roe v. Wade. In his absence, and with Kavanaugh in situ, the court will likely roll back a number of progressive rulings, including those concerning abortion rights.

Abortion hasn't always been such a partisan issue. Until the mid-1970s, the majority of Republicans favored abortion rights, favoring all the self-determinism that position represented. The need to mollify the religious right saw a gradual shift toward the anti-abortion stance today's millennials most associate with the party. What might once have been a matter for individual social conscience is now a definitive political marker. As such, the Republicans are now almost completely united in their mission to scale back progressive abortion laws, and President Donald Trump has made it clear that he intends to spearhead the endeavor.

Reports vary, but it is generally agreed that over half of Americans under 30 are pro-abortion. And even with Roe v. Wade in place, several states have begun to impose restrictions on abortion. West Virginia, where the coat hanger-celebrating Barber is a councilman, is one of seven states which currently have just one abortion clinic. The fact that anti-abortion politicians have already made such headway in removing options for pregnant women should be of acute concern to the pro-abortion population, not least because of the broader social injustice it represents.

Any measures to restrict abortion disproportionately affect minorities and the poor. In the wake of the 2008 financial collapse and as abortion rights were restricted, internet searches about self-induced abortions nearly doubled. And black women seek abortions at five times the rate of white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which puts them at even greater risk when their rights are restricted.

And it's important to remember that punitive measures don't deter women from attempting DIY abortions, but they do make them more hazardous. Self-induced abortions, even those managed with pills rather than invasive measures, are very dangerous.

Americans' reproductive rights were under threat long before Kavanaugh's confirmation, but his presence in the Supreme Court could accelerate their dissolution aggressively. And as Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, made clear this week, Kavanaugh's appointment and confirmation to the Supreme Court is just one component of a broader Republican assault on women's bodily autonomy.

Asked whether Trump was upholding his promise to work toward getting Roe v. Wade overturned, she said: "He's nominating people -- 26 to the US Circuit courts and two to the United States Supreme Court -- who are going to apply the law." She stressed that the state would tackle late-term abortion and sex-selection abortion, and "look at abortion after nonpartisan scientists and doctors say a fetus can feel pain."

In short, if the Republicans maintain control of Congress, that could prove the nail in the coffin for federal-mandated reproductive rights. Young people who were not born before Roe v. Wade could discover a grim world of DIY abortions, already familiar to many of America's poor and disenfranchised, if their states pass strict anti-abortion laws. While this is more likely to occur in red states, some blue states have not yet passed laws protecting abortion. It is not only "liberals" who want or need abortions, as Barber's disgusting Facebook post suggested earlier this week. The option needs to be safely, legally available to all American women.

The majority of young voters agree, but unless they turn out to vote, their voices will go unheard. The Eric Barbers of America will celebrate their final, definitive triumph.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 154411

Reported Deaths: 3836
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10332104
Hinds10190199
Harrison7244111
Jackson6521124
Rankin5805103
Lee523695
Madison4964107
Forrest388286
Jones367788
Lauderdale3575147
Lafayette334952
Washington3241108
Lamar296650
Oktibbeha251362
Lowndes243864
Bolivar242984
Panola229653
Neshoba2241118
Marshall221250
Leflore207791
Monroe203978
Pontotoc202929
Lincoln194865
Sunflower192555
Warren178757
Tate177051
Union171026
Copiah167040
Pike164758
Yazoo158840
Scott157930
Itawamba156135
Alcorn154828
Pearl River154168
Coahoma151943
Simpson151953
Prentiss149531
Adams144451
Grenada142845
Leake139444
Holmes132361
Tippah128030
Covington127939
George126425
Winston124526
Hancock123640
Wayne120623
Marion118646
Attala117534
Tishomingo110842
Chickasaw109032
Newton108029
Tallahatchie97727
Clay93427
Clarke93053
Jasper84822
Stone80015
Calhoun78113
Walthall77229
Montgomery75825
Carroll74015
Lawrence73414
Smith72816
Noxubee72517
Yalobusha72328
Perry68126
Tunica62319
Greene61222
Claiborne58916
Jefferson Davis58817
Amite55814
Humphreys54719
Benton49918
Quitman4977
Webster46414
Kemper44718
Wilkinson40422
Jefferson36411
Franklin3535
Choctaw3507
Sharkey32317
Issaquena1204
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 249524

Reported Deaths: 3578
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson33064500
Mobile19951362
Madison13596148
Tuscaloosa13246154
Montgomery12435236
Shelby1061677
Baldwin889098
Lee781466
Morgan686150
Etowah643966
Calhoun6430121
Marshall635355
Houston537738
DeKalb492236
Cullman451542
Limestone433345
St. Clair432555
Lauderdale422354
Elmore412964
Walker3710111
Talladega359354
Jackson329823
Colbert329642
Blount299740
Autauga278042
Franklin256434
Coffee248315
Dale236254
Chilton227438
Dallas226832
Russell22383
Covington220434
Escambia198931
Tallapoosa184391
Chambers177950
Pike159914
Clarke159819
Marion143636
Winston135123
Lawrence131636
Pickens125718
Geneva12438
Marengo123124
Bibb119617
Barbour117811
Butler117842
Randolph104921
Cherokee103424
Hale97831
Fayette92516
Washington92219
Clay92024
Henry8756
Lowndes80229
Monroe79011
Cleburne77814
Macon74522
Crenshaw72030
Bullock70219
Perry6906
Lamar6898
Conecuh68814
Wilcox64218
Sumter58622
Greene42818
Choctaw42713
Coosa3544
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 42°
Columbus
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 42°
Oxford
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 41°
Starkville
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 45°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather