Feminist Issues Addressed at Kagan Hearing

Throughout the course of the Elena Kagan hearings, several feminist issues have been addressed. In an effort to determine Kagan’s stand on abortion, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked her, “Do you believe the Constitution requires that the health of the mother be protected in any statute restricting access to abortion?” Kagan replied, “I do think that the continuing holding of Roe and Doe v. Bolton, is that women’s life and women’s health have to be protected in abortion regulation.” In regards to the Gonzalez case, where congress “passed a statute without a health exception and with only a life exception,” Kagan said the ruling “was appropriate because of the large degree of medical uncertainty involved. But with respect to abortion generally, putting that procedure aside,” she continued, “I think that the continuing holdings of the court are that the woman’s life and that the woman’s health must be protected in any abortion regulation,” according to the Huffington Post. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) addressed recent court rulings overturning gun control, asking Kagan if “there [is] any doubt that the Second Amendment to the Constitution secures the fundamental right for an individual to own a firearm, use it for self-defense in their own home?” Kagan replied “There is no doubt…That is binding precedent, entitled to all the respect of binding precedent in any case. So that is settled law,” reported NPR. Senator Feinstein later asked why these precedents are binding. Kagan replied, “the court decided them as they did. And once the court has decided a case, it is binding precedent. And it’s not enough, even if you think something is wrong, to say, ‘Oh, well, that decision was wrong.'” In the area of lesbian and gay rights, most questioning centered on the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and Kagan’s actions as dean at Harvard Law School, where she banned military recruitment through campus career services. The Supreme Court ruled this ban violated the Solomon Amendment, which bans funding for universities that prevent military recruitment on campus. Kagan had allowed recruitment through a Harvard veterans’ group instead. According to NPR, Kagan explained, “I have repeatedly said that I believe that the don’t ask, don’t tell policy is unwise and unjust. I believed it then, and I believe it now.” She continued, “We were trying to make sure that military recruiters had full and complete access to our students, but we were also trying to protect our own anti-discrimination policy…I tried to make clear in everything I did how much I honored everybody who was associated with the military on the Harvard Law School campus.” Kagan also said that she aimed “to protect all the students of our campus, including the gay and lesbian students who might very much want to serve in the military.” In testimony against Kagan yesterday, retired Army Captain Flagg Youngblood said, “Dean Kagan’s unlawful brand of segregation clearly estranged the students at Harvard Law School from the military.” Other testimony against Kagan on lesbian and gay rights issues included that of Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, who testified, “Her own statements make [it] obvious that Elena Kagan would strike down any marital statute, including the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between the union of one man and one woman…We do not need a justice on the Supreme Court who sees it as her life mission to write the homosexual version of Roe v. Wade by striking down one man/one woman marriage all across America,” reported Politico. Those who testified in support of Kagan’s nomination included Marcia Greenberger, President of the National Women’s Law Center, who testified that Kagan is “Open-minded and dedicated, scrupulously fair and committed to defending equal justice.” She continued, “Kagan will bring to the Supreme Court the commitment to equal justice for ordinary Americans, including the women of this country who often need its protection in ways they never expected,” reported RH Reality Check. Lilly Ledbetter, the plaintiff in a discrimination case against the Goodyear Tire Company, where the Supreme Court ruling gutted the ability of women workers to sue for wage discrimination, also testified in support of Kagan. Equal pay legislation in Ledbetter’s name was later passed and signed by President Obama to correct the Supreme Court ruling.


RH Reality Check 7/1/10; Politico 7/2/10; Huffington Post 6/29/10; NPR 6/29/10

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