Some of you have probably seen this photo before. This was Gerri Santoro. The image has been featured in pro-reproductive choice materials over time to illustrate what could happen if legalized abortion was repealed.
Santoro sought an abortion in 1964, nine years before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in the Roe v. Wade case. Separated from her abusive husband, she had become pregnant by a coworker with whom she fell in love. They decided to try a self-induced abortion, using some surgical instruments they had acquired, and a textbook. The couple registered in a Norwich, Connecticut motel under aliases.
The procedure did not work as planned. Santoro began bleeding profusely, and her boyfriend abandoned her. This is how the police found her; on the floor by a bed, on top of bloody towels, alone, dead. She was 28.
Brett Kavanaugh, the unpresident’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court seat which became vacant due to Justice Kennedy’s retirement, has claimed that he considers Roe v.Wade “settled law.” But no one is sure of that, especially members of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, who asked him about his beliefs on various issues during his confirmation hearing last week. Kavanaugh said very little about anything.
The Repugnantthug members of the committee are delighted with the possibility of Kavanaugh’s appointment. He would be one of five or so conservative Justices whose rulings would overturn years of legal precedence upholding civil rights, women’s rights, labor union rights, and environmental protections. They are working to make Kavanaugh’s confirmation as quick and easy as possible.
Of the Democrats on the committee only Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California asked tough and pointed questions designed to force Kavanaugh to admit to his conservative beliefs. The closest anyone came to uncovering Kavanaugh’s thoughts on reproductive choice was Repugnantthug Senator Ted Cruz of New Mexico, who asked him about the dissent he wrote as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the 2015 Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services case.
The anti-abortion Catholic organization sued the Obama administration because it didn’t want to provide its employees with health insurance that would cover contraceptives, as mandated under the Affordable Care Act. The act allowed religious groups to opt out of providing such coverage if it notified insurers and the federal government, but they had to contract with third parties which would provide such coverage. Priests for Choice insisted that even contracting with third parties would make it complicit in providing employees with birth control which the group opposes because birth control prevents pregnancy.
Kavanaugh told the Senate committee that if Priests for Choice filled out the form for health insurance that provided birth control pills, IUDs and other forms of contraception, it would “make them complicit in the provision of abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objecting to.” He didn’t seem to know that birth control devices do not “induce” abortions. And if he didn’t know that, what might he rule in cases argued before the U.S. Supreme Court which could result in overturning Roe v. Wade?
If abortion becomes illegal again, women would not stop trying to have them anyway. Just as they did before Roe v. Wade, women would resort to self-induced abortions of the type that killed Gerri Santoro, or go to “back alley” abortionists who have no medical training, whose surgical instruments and facilities are not clean and sterile, and risk the possibility of internal infections, butchered reproductive organs, hemorrhaging, and death.
Women of color, as before Roe v. Wade, would comprise disproportionate numbers of deaths by illegal abortions. When abortions were illegal, white women with money could go to Canada, which had legalized abortion, or to other countries to undergo the procedure. Women of color and low-income women generally were more dependent on the “back alley” option, and even those services weren’t cheap. Which led far too many women to the third option, do-it-yourself abortions, using knitting needles, coat hangers, or anything else to insert and “scrape out” the fetus. That option was unsafe and deadly.
Nobody “likes” abortion, but there are times when it is necessary, such as when a woman becomes pregnant through rape, or carrying a baby to term could endanger the mother’s life. Deciding to have one is not something women take lightly. But whether or not to have one should be a decision made by women, not the “state.” And apparently Kavanaugh, along with the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the unpresident who nominated Kavanaugh, don’t think women have the brains to decide whether, when, or if they should have children.
There may still be time to block Kavanaugh’s appointment. The following Senators are said to be “undecided.” Please contact them and ask them to vote against Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court appointment:
Susan Collins, (202) 224-2523.
Lisa Murkowski, (202) 224-6665.
Joe Manchin, (202) 224-3954.
Heidi Heitkamp, (202) 224-2043.
Doug Jones, (202) 224-4124.
Joe Donnelly, (202) 224-4814.