Thursday the full Senate will vote on a cloture motion to end debate on a Democratic filibuster of the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Claude Allen to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Both nominees are staunch opponents of the right to abortion and are opposed by a wide coalition of women’s, civil, and human rights organizations, including the Feminist Majority.
As a state Senator, Pickering supported a constitutional amendment to ban abortion and chaired the subcommittee of the National Republican Party that in 1976 approved a plank calling for an amendment to the US Constitution to make abortion illegal. Pickering has opposed the Equal Rights Amendment and as a district court judge, criticized remedies provided by the Voting Rights Act to redress discrimination against African-American voters. Also as a federal district judge, Pickering attempted to intercede in a case to reduce the sentence of a convicted cross burner.
During yesterday’s hearing, Senator Leahy (D-VT) voiced disapproval of Allen’s nomination saying, “Claude Allen is a conservative political operative with little litigation experience and extreme views.” As an example of Allen’s judicial philosophy being out of the mainstream, opponents point to his service as a Director of the Board of Peacemaker Ministries, an organization that condemns litigation as a destructive way of dealing with conflict. The organization derides broad categories of litigation, including divorce and suits by children who have been sexually abused by clergy members.
Allen is also a staunch opponent of abortion rights. Allen helped draft Virginia’s parental notification law and supported a law imposing a 24 hour waiting period and requiring biased information be given to women seeking abortions. In his current position at HHS, Allen backed the Bush Administration’s decision to remove information about condom effectiveness and teen pregnancy prevention from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website.
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