On Tuesday evening, President Trump announced the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court. The seat has been open for almost a year following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and Republicans’ refusal to grant Obama nominee Merrick Garland a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Judge Gorsuch was appointed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver by President George W. Bush, and has experience clerking for two Supreme Court justices. Thought to be even more conservative than Scalia, Gorsuch considers himself to be an originalist, meaning he attempts to interpret the Constitution as it was written by the founders, a fact that leaves many women’s rights activists concerned, as the 19th amendment granting the right to vote is the only explicit Constitutional protection for women.
“The elevation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court would be every woman’s and every feminist’s worst nightmare,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “If Judge Gorsuch’s views should become the majority opinion of the Court, women’s and LGBT rights would be in jeopardy.”
In the infamous Hobby Lobby case, Gorsuch ruled that corporations are people deserving of religious protections and ignored the rights of employed women to access comprehensive healthcare that covers birth control. The Supreme Court later reaffirmed his ruling in the lower court, dismantling one of the most important provisions for women in the Affordable Care Act.
The ruling set a dangerous precedent that corporations could claim religious objections to any regulations they considered too burdensome. This type of imposition could also be legally extended to any individual or corporation who wished to invoke religion to defend discrimination, for example, when firing a transgender employee or a woman who becomes pregnant out of wedlock.
While he does not have a strong record on abortion, it can be inferred from his defense of religious freedom and narrow view of women’s protections under the Constitution, along with Trump’s promise to nominate an anti-abortion judge, that Gorsuch would be complicit in the overturning of Roe V. Wade.
Jessica Mason Pieklo, an adjunct law professor in Boulder, Colorado, wrote in Rewire, “He is a nomination designed to test Democrats’ will to fight, one Trump made in the height of the chaos and protests surrounding his immigration executive order, and as opposition to his cabinet nominees amplified. Trump’s team is counting on Democrats and the public to be overwhelmed and unable to resist each executive overreach and crony cabinet choice.”
Media Resources: New York Times 1/31/17; Rewire 2/1/17; Cosmopolitan 2/1/17