Former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted Wednesday that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had misrepresented contraceptives by calling birth control “abortion-inducing drugs,” and she called it “a dog whistle to the extreme right.”
Well, did he say it?
When Kavanaugh called birth control “abortion-inducing drugs,” he made it clear that safe and legal abortion isn’t the only fundamental reproductive right at grave risk if he is confirmed. Access to birth control is, too.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 12, 2018
Clinton is referencing a moment during Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing in early September in which he was asked over the course of a three-day period his legal views on a variety of issues.
This narrative of the Supreme Court nominee mischaracterizing birth control first originated from a tweet by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who took to Twitter on Friday saying that his use of the term “abortion-inducing” would allow Kavanaugh to get away with “punishing women.”
Watch the video below:
Kavanaugh chooses his words very carefully, and this is a dog whistle for going after birth control. He was nominated for the purpose of taking away a woman’s constitutionally protected right to make her own health care decisions. Make no mistake – this is about punishing women. pic.twitter.com/zkBjXzIvQI
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) September 7, 2018
So the statement in need of examination:
Brett Kavanaugh used the term “abortion-inducing drugs” to describe contraceptives.
When watching the full, unabridged clip, Kavanaugh is answering a question asked by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) about a case in which he argued that the Affordable Care Act should not force employers to cover contraceptives and that employers should be allowed to opt out for religious reasons without punishment.
Here is Kavanaugh’s full answer. There’s no question that he uncritically used the term “abortion-inducing drugs,” which is a dog whistle term used by extreme anti-choice groups to describe birth control. pic.twitter.com/PMbZzu8DqD
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) September 8, 2018
When watching the full clip, you see that Harris’ 11-second clip cuts out two crucial words. “They said…”
With that addition, it’s clear that Kavanaugh is not representing himself within this clip. Instead, he appears to be speaking on the views of the Catholic nonprofit group, Priests for Life, and how it views contraceptives within its lawsuit.
Kerri Kupec, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, backed up this assumption, telling Politifact that it was “very clear he’s characterizing their position, which was held by all the Catholic organizations within that set of cases.”
Lily Adams, Harris’ communications director, said the problem lies in Kavanaugh using the term and not dismissing it as a poor phrase to use in the debate.
“In his full answer, he uses the term uncritically,” Adams said. “He doesn’t say ‘so-called,’ ‘I don’t agree with it,’ there’s no caveat that he gives that he does not agree with the term.”
Kavanaugh also said later in his hearing that the government has a compelling interest to allow employees to have access to contraceptives but that it should not be done at the expense of religious belief.
Fact or Fiction
Ultimately, Kavanaugh has not clearly stated his personal views on abortion, so that renders it impossible to say whether he sees birth control as an “abortion-inducing drug.” Any opinion into Kavanaugh’s views is, at this point, speculation.
That being said, once all the evidence is brought in front of us, it’s clear that Harris took Kavanaugh’s comment out of context. The clip that the senator posted has edited out important attribution, and regardless of Harris’ response, Kavanaugh not stating his disagreement on the plaintiff’s beliefs does not mean he agrees with it, either.
Ultimately, Kavanaugh hasn’t made his personal views known on the issue, and many Democrats, including Harris and Clinton, have been sharing statements made by the Supreme Court nominee out of context.