The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on President Bush’s nomination of Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor to the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. However, Senate Democrats are likely to delay the vote until next week. The Feminist Majority joins a broad coalition of women’s rights, civil rights, environmental, church-state separation, disability, and lesbian and gay rights groups-including even the gay Republican Log Cabin group-in opposing Pryor.
At his confirmation hearing last week, Pryor spoke openly of his ultra-conservative personal views, defending earlier statements calling the 1973 US Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history,” and “the day seven members of our high court ripped the Constitution and ripped out the life of millions of unborn children.” Still, Pryor insisted he would “follow the law” as a member of the 11th Circuit Court. Senate Democrats remained skeptical, pointing to Pryor’s equally disturbing stance defending so-called “state’s rights.” For example, he has criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Virginia, which ruled Virginia Military Institute’s denial of admission to women was unconstitutional. Pryor disparaged the constitutional rights of women, and denounced this decision, citing it as an example of the court’s having been “both antidemocratic and insensitive to federalism,” according to NOW LDEF. Pryor also submitted an amicus brief on behalf of Alabama in the Supreme Court case United States v. Morrison arguing that the civil rights remedy of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was unconstitutional, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. He later wrote an article stating that the federal government should remove itself from efforts to protect women against violence. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said, “It’s just not enough to say ‘I will follow the law.’ Every nominee says that, and then when they get to the bench they have many different ways of following the law,” reported the New York Times.
Throughout his term, President Bush has been packing the federal courts with far right judges – all of whom will serve lifetime appointments. A broad coalition, including women’s rights, civil rights, environmental, disability rights, and pro-choice organizations, has been fighting hard to protect the Circuit Courts of Appeals and key District Courts, but now with up to two of the nine Supreme Court justices are expected to retire this summer, many rights-including the right to safe, legal abortion-currently hanging by a 5-4 balance, may be overturned. Join the Feminist Majority online for our June Chat Series: “Supreme Court in Peril,” featuring speakers from a variety of organizations speaking on civil, women’s, workers’, disability, and gay rights and the environment. Find out how you can get involved in the fight to protect the courts.