The efforts of conservatives to cast Judge Neil Gorsuch as moderate and bipartisan as he continues his Supreme Court confirmation hearings are disingenuous at best and dangerous at worst. Gorsuch may not be as obviously unqualified and corrupt as other Trump administration nominees, but with a record to the right of the late Justice Scalia, including on reproductive health, confirming Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court would significantly threaten women’s access to abortion.
As soon as Gorsuch’s name was released as President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, elected officials and the media rushed to praise Trump for appointing someone who had remained neutral on abortion. After anti-abortion rhetoric on the campaign trail, promises of appointing an anti-abortion judge and releasing a list of far-right potential nominees, everyone breathed a sigh of relief that Trump had nominated someone who didn’t seem all that bad.
They were wrong.
Gorsuch is very clearly the anti-abortion nominee that the pro-life movement wanted. When asked about his views on Roe v. Wade, Gorsuch responded with absurd hypotheticals rather than answer the question stating his positions. Luckily, we don’t have to depend on Gorsuch for an answer – his record shows just how anti-abortion he is.
Before the infamous Hobby Lobby case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, Gorsuch ruled in favor of the corporation’s demand for religious exemptions from the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate while serving on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. He went on to write that he felt individual business owners had the same right to be exempt from covering birth control and that the ACA mandate “forces employers to underwrite payments for drugs or devices that can have the effect of destroying a fertilized human egg.” This medically inaccurate claim tells us all we need to know about Gorsuch. He, like the rest of Trump’s administration, chooses to ignore medical research, and puts corporate profit before women’s access to safe and affordable healthcare.
Trump didn’t nominate a bipartisan judge with a blank slate on abortion. Instead, he blatantly pandered to extremists who would prefer to limit women’s opportunities and strong-arm them into a regressive, one-size-fits-all approach to reproductive healthcare.
Since Trump’s victory, we’ve watched members of the extremist fringe first become mainstreamed and then, increasingly normalized. There can be no doubt this permissive attitude towards political appointees and nominees with records that would be a non-starter during any other presidency threatens to undo much of our country’s hard-won progress on social justice issues, and especially on abortion.
The impact Gorsuch’s confirmation could have on the future of reproductive justice is unquestionably chilling, and the challenge to his nomination within Congress has not reflected the gravity of the threat.
It’s time for liberals to wake up and stop giving Gorsuch a pass because he isn’t “that bad.” As abortion rights are increasingly under threat, liberals can settle for no less than a justice who is unequivocal in his or her support of access to abortion.
Erin Matson and Pamela Merritt are the co-founders and co-directors of Reproaction, a direct action group dedicated to increasing abortion access and advancing reproductive justice.