As It Happens

Brett Kavanaugh tried to stop undocumented teen from getting abortion: lawyer

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to stop an undocumented pregnant immigrant teenager from getting an abortion, says the lawyer who acted as her legal guardian.

Rochelle Garza, the girl's legal guardian, testified at U.S. Supreme Court nominee's confirmation hearing

Attorney Rochelle Garza of Brownsville, Texas, describes how she helped an undocumented teenage girl fight for an abortion, as she testifies on a panel of experts and character witnesses before the U.S. Senate judiciary committee on the final day of the confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)
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U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to stop an undocumented pregnant teenage immigrant from getting an abortion, says the lawyer who acted as her legal guardian.

Rochelle Garza testified at the fourth and final day of Senate confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh on Friday. She was the court-appointed guardian to Jane Doe, a 17-year-old who entered the United States without any family in September 2017.

Doe wanted an abortion and she had the permission of a court-appointed guardian, but because she was in federal custody, the government objected. 

She had to overcome several legal obstacles, including a temporary delay imposed by a three-judge appeals court panel that included Kavanaugh.

She did have an abortion on Oct. 25 in Texas, the day after a U.S. appeals court ruled against the Trump administration's objections. The U.S. Supreme Court has since thrown out that ruling, voiding any precedent it may have set.

Garza says the role Kavanaugh played in the saga makes him an anti-abortion judge in her eyes. She spoke to As It Happens guest host Helen Mann on Friday after her testimony. Here is part of that conversation.

Why did you want to speak at Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing today?

I wanted to speak at the hearing so that I could share Jane's story. It's important that the senators consider and are aware of what happened to this young woman and how Judge Kavanaugh's decision affected her negatively.

What was his role in the case?

In Texas, minors are required to get a judicial bypass if they want to enact their abortion decision without the consent or knowledge of their parent. She did that.

The problem was that the facilities didn't want to release her. 

And Jane had made it clear that she wanted to terminate her pregnancy?

There was an order from the court that stopped the government from doing what they were doing, which was harassing her on a daily basis and preventing her from going to her appointments.

After that order was issued, we were able to take her to her first day. After we were able to go to Day 1, is when the case was appealed to the three-judge panel with Judge Kavanaugh. So there was a temporary stay put on her, so she couldn't go to Day 2 to get her procedure.

Judge Kavanaugh's decision said she needs to wait 11 more days, the federal government has 11 more days to find a sponsor for her.

It had nothing to do with what was going on. She already did everything she needed to do. She already jumped through every hoop she needed to. We had the bypass order. There was no reason to make that decision.

Brett Kavanaugh is U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Did you believe that Judge Kavanaugh was trying to ban this Jane Doe from having an abortion?

Absolutely. That was the effect of the decision.

Jane was completely at the mercy of the federal government. She had no choice. She was essentially being held hostage.

Was there anything he said in the course of the proceedings that struck as particularly anti-abortion?

If you're not even going to allow somebody to go to a procedure that they are constitutionally entitled to get, that is anti-abortion.

Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris asks what, in Kavanaugh's opinion, is still unresolved legally around Roe vs Wade. 1:44

I understand at one point he suggested letting Jane Doe go through with the procedure would make the government complicit in something that it finds morally objectionable?

My hope is always that, you know, the judiciary would be independent or remove their personal views on something like that. Because, I mean, what is liberty without being able to decide for yourself what is the right thing?

Can you describe the toll all of this took on Jane? 

It was very hard for her. And it was hard for me, because I had to see her face every time every time she thought she was going to be able to enact her decision, and just being delayed.

I mean, these people that she never knew, that she would never see or never meet in person, had complete control over her life's path and the decision that she had already made for herself, like it didn't matter. 

Judge Kavanaugh has been asked repeatedly about abortion this week by the Democrats on the Senate judiciary committee. When you hear Judge Kavanaugh answer with phrases like ... "I understand the importance of the precedent set forth in Roe vs. Wade"  and also that ... "I understand the importance that people attached to the Roe vs. Wade decision," does that offer you any comfort?

No, it doesn't make me feel comforted that he's going to follow precedent. Saying you're going to follow precedent and then not actually following precedent in your decisions, those two things just do not work together.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters and Associated Press. Produced by Imogen Birchard. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.