On Tuesday, Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) questioned Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court, about abortion, asking her when she thought life began. Jackson evaded answering the question, replying, “I don’t know,” then laughed.
Kennedy asked, “When does life begin, in your opinion?”
“Senator, I don’t know,” Jackson answered as she laughed uncomfortably.
“Ma’am?” Kennedy queried.
“I don’t know,” Jackson repeated.
“You have a belief?” Kennedy persisted.
“I have personal, religious and otherwise beliefs that have nothing to do with the law in terms of when life begins, “ Jackson responded.
“Do you have a personal belief, though, about when life begins?” Kennedy prodded.
“I have a religious view —” Jackson started.
“A religious belief?” Kennedy interjected.
“ — that I set aside when I am ruling on cases,” Jackson finished.
“Okay. When does equal protection of the laws attach to a human being?” Kennedy shifted.
“Well, Senator, I believe the Supreme Court — actually — actually I don’t know the answer to that question. I’m sorry. I don’t,” Jackson dodged.
The Washington Post, writing of Jackson’s position on abortion, noted:
… she ruled against the Trump administration’s decision to cut grant funding under the federal Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. In Policy and Research v. HHS, she found that the administration had not properly grounded its action in the mandates of the Administrative Procedure Act. As a lawyer in private practice, Jackson wrote an amicus brief on behalf of women’s groups defending a Massachusetts law that kept abortion protesters away from the entrances of facilities.
The amicus brief states:
Few American citizens who seek to exercise constitutionally protected rights must run a gauntlet through a hostile, noisy crowd of “in-your-face” protesters. Still fewer citizens, when seeking medical or surgical care — particularly care involving deeply private matters — must confront a crowd swarming around them, shouting in their faces, blocking their way, and thrusting disturbing photographs and objects at them. Yet on any given day, patients of reproductive health clinics may face all of these. …
Both patients and reproductive health care workers have been waylaid by screams shouted inches from their ears and gruesome placards shoved under their noses. The chaotic scenes, in which protest may go far beyond mere “speech,” are well-documented. They also are extremely frightening. …
The purpose of the statute at issue here is to regulate conduct, not pure speech. Demonstrators who wish to express their support for or opposition to abortion may still do so in almost any manner they choose, including by yelling or displaying disturbing visual images. What is regulated, however, is a form of conduct that has proven over time to be threatening and dangerous to women attempting to enter a clinic: “in-your-face” confrontations. There is simply no good reason to allow protestors to intimidate clinic clients in this fashion; there is no good constitutionally-protected right to harass a woman entering a clinic or to invade her “personal space.”
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