Crossposted on Amplify
Elena Kagan, Obama’s second appointee to the Supreme Court, was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary committee last week. Kagan is the second woman Obama has appointed, and she will replace justice John Paul Stevens later this year. The Senate Judiciary committee approved her by a vote of 13-6, with one Republican (Lindsey Graham) supporting her. She appears to be headed to an easy confirmation in the full senate soon. But where does she stand? And what will her confirmation mean for the pressing social and health issues we face today?
First, it is important to understand how she differs from Justice Stevens, who she will be replacing. Justice John Paul Stevens was appointed under Gerald Ford in 1975. During parts of his early career, he was a moderate conservative: critical of affirmative action, in favor of capitol punishment, and he even called himself a conservative. But he gradually became more liberal, eventually supporting an affirmative action program as well as voting with liberal Justices on abortion and gay rights issues. By 2003, a statistical analysis found that Stevens was the most liberal Justice on the court. If the Supreme Court was to become more liberal, it would mean that Stevens' replacement would need to be fairly left leaning.
So where does Elena Kagan stand? Elena Kagan’s past shows she is a stronger advocate for gay rights issues and abortion issues than Stevens.
Gay Rights: Kagan has shown both in words and in actions her support for the LGBTQ community. First, as dean of Harvard law school she banned military recruiters because she opposed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. She called the militaries policy “a profound wrong—a moral injustice of the first order.” And there is more. While the decision to kick military recruiters off campus was controversial enough, she went even further:
"Her most significant work is on the Solomon Amendment, legislation that withholds federal funds from colleges and universities when they ban military recruiters because the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy conflicts with many universities’ antidiscrimination policies,” wrote Matthews in a piece for CampusProgress.org. “As dean, Kagan supported a lawsuit intended to overturn the legislation so military recruiters might be banned from the grounds of schools like Harvard. When a federal appeals court ruled the Pentagon could not withhold funds, she banned the military from Harvard’s campus once again” (Newsweek)
The Supreme Court finally ruled in favor of the recruiters, and so they were allowed back on campus, but Kagan encouraged students to protest the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.
Abortion: Kagan is definitely pro-choice. According to Politico,
Kagan has acknowledged contributing to the National Partnership for Women and Families, which has strong ties to Emily’s List and NARAL. NPWF describes itself as a “national pro-choice group.”
Kagan argued that federal funding for anti-abortion programs that serve those in need of pregnancy-related care should be “off limits” to religious organizations.
Kagen also worked with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists during the Clinton Administration, where she protected a woman’s right to late term abortion in cases where the mothers life was at stake. The ACOG was going to issue a statement saying that there was no instance in which late term abortion was the only option for preserving the mother’s life or health. Elena Kagen suggested that ACOG say that the procedure of late term abortion was sometimes the best one available. ACOG adopted that language. (via WSJ)
It seems like Kagen will be an excellent addition to the Supreme Court. From the fairly narrow view we have of her past, it looks like Kagen will be a strong advocate for equality, abortion rights, women’s rights, sex education, and any other issue that involves putting science over ideology.