At day two of Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California stumped the Supreme Court nominee with a question about abortion rights. “Can you think of any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?” Harris asked. The question came after a string of questions about Kavanaugh’s view of Roe v. Wade, which he proceeded to tip-toe all around throughout the question-and-answer session.
The query was followed by a few seconds of awkward silence, before Kavanaugh responded, “Ah … I’m happy to answer a more specific question.”
“Male versus female,” Harris pressed.
“There are, um, medical procedures … ?” Kavanaugh ventured.
“That the government has the power to make a decision about a man’s body?” Harris followed up.
“I thought you were asking about medical procedures that were unique to men,” he said.
“I’ll repeat the question,” Harris said. “Can you think of any laws that give the government the power to make decisions about the male body?”
“I’m not, ah … I’m not … I’m not thinking of any right now, Senator,” Kavanaugh eventually said.
Of course, determining Kavanaugh’s position on Roe v. Wade has been a top priority for Democrats in the Senate and women’s rights advocates given the concern that the federal appeals judge, who has a conservative record, could be the swing vote that would overturn the landmark decision were a challenge brought before the Supreme Court. Thus far, Kavanaugh’s thinking on the matter has been difficult to pinpoint.
On Thursday, The New York Times reported that it had obtained a leaked 2003 email written by Kavanaugh in which he seems to question whether Roe v. Wade is settled law. “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so,” Kavanaugh wrote at the time, according to to the Times. “The point there is in the inferior court point.” In 2003, Kavanaugh was a lawyer for the administration of then-president George W. Bush and he was responding to a draft opinion piece that said it was “widely accepted by legal scholars across the board that Roe v. Wade and its progeny are the settled law of the land.”
Perhaps that email sheds some light on why Kavanaugh was being so evasive under question from Harris. Below, watch the full exchange between Harris and Kavanaugh.
Can you think of any laws that give the government the power to make decisions about the male body?pic.twitter.com/lDcXPZ56hX
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) September 6, 2018