Women are sharing voicemails, left with Planned Parenthood, about why access to legal abortions matters to them during Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court hearings

By Julie Mazziotta
September 05, 2018 05:03 PM
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Credit: Chris Maddaloni/Roll Call/Getty Images

From a mom who needed an abortion to save her life during a non-viable pregnancy, to a woman who was raped at age 20 and became pregnant, people are speaking out about why access to legal abortions matter to them as President Donald Trump‘s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, is questioned in Senate Judiciary Committee hearings this week.

Opponents of Trump’s choice for a lifetime appointment to the high court see Kavanaugh as a threat to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion across the U.S. Though Kavanaugh declined in hearings Wednesday to say if he would reverse Roe v. Wade, Trump vowed during his presidential campaign to only nominate “pro-life justices” who would vote to overturn the ruling if it made its way to the Supreme Court again. In response, Planned Parenthood is sharing voicemails from women explaining why abortion rights are necessary for women’s health in their #DearSenators campaign.

“Right now with Kavanaugh’s nomination, the right to safe, legal abortions is on the line. We know that he was nominated because Donald Trump was looking for someone who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and looking at Kavanaugh’s record, and what he’s said about abortion and even what he’s said today in his hearings, it’s clear that he doesn’t not believe that women have a constitutional right to access abortion,” Erica Sackin, the director of Political Communications at Planned Parenthood, tells PEOPLE.

Sackin says that while public support for abortion rights is at its highest rate in two decades — 57 percent of Americans say it should be legal in all situations, according to Pew Research polling, and one in four women have had an abortion in their lifetime — Trump has made explicit his desire to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“Since it seems like Donald Trump and Kavanaugh won’t listen to the voices of the people who would be directly impacted by his rulings if he were to be nominated,” Sackin says, “we would make sure that they would be heard by as many people as possible.”

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Planned Parenthood put out a request for stories about what legal access to abortions means to people, and has shared nearly 300 voicemails.

“We’re elevating all the people who would be touched by Kavanaugh’s decision,” Sackin says. “Just listening to these stories, you get a sense of what it really means to be impacted by abortion. And many times, especially as the hearings play out, you’ll hear a lot of rhetoric and slogans, especially from anti-abortion politicians, that all too often forget that there are real people at the other end of these decisions. It isn’t just about some game of political football here. When were talking about the right to legal health care in this country.”

During his hearing on Wednesday, Kavanaugh, who currently serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, repeatedly said that Roe v. Wade was a “settled” matter and “it’s settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court.” But Sen. Diane Feinstein pressed him on the issue, explaining that she had been on nine Supreme Court confirmation hearings and frequently heard nominees say they would keep to precedent only to ignore it once they’re on the bench.

“How you make a judgment on these issues is really important to our vote as to whether to support you or not because I don’t want to go back to those death tolls,” Feinstein said, according to The Washington Post. “I truly believe that women should be able to control her own reproductive systems.”

In response, Kavanaugh did not confirm how he would vote on the matter, and said, “I understand your point of view on that. I understand the importance of the issue. I don’t live in a bubble. I live in the real world.”