Last month, President Barack Obama announced Georgetown Law professor Cornelia "Nina" Pillard among his three nominations to U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Pro-life groups and some conservatives are speaking out against the nominee, pointing to what they consider "extreme pro-abortion views" and a "militant" brand of feminism.
Cornelia Pillard listens as President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 3, 2013, where he announced his nomination of Pillard, Robert Wilkins and Patricia Ann Millet to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (AP)
According to her profile on Georgetown Law's website, Pillard previously served as a deputy assistant to the attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel and assistant to the solicitor general. Some of the notable court cases for the Harvard and Yale graduate include "United States v. Virginia (1996), which opened the Virginia Military Institute to women, and Nevada Dept. of Social Svcs. v. Hibbs (2003), sustaining Family and Medical Leave Act rights against constitutional challenge."
In his announcement, Obama criticized the Senate as it "too often failed" to confirm judicial nominees in a timely fashion.
"Time and again, congressional Republicans cynically used Senate rules and procedures to delay and even block qualified nominees from coming to a full vote," Obama said in early June. "As a result, my judicial nominees have waited three times longer to receive confirmation votes than those of my Republican predecessor."
President Barack Obama, second from right, announces the nominations of, from left, Robert Wilkins, Cornelia Pillard, and Patricia Ann Millet, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the Rose Garden of the White House on Tuesday, June 4, 2013, in Washington. (AP)
Even with this chastising, many Republicans in the Senate held firm, maintaining that the D.C. court didn't need any more judges or at least not revealing their thoughts at the time, according to the Huffington Post.
Now, the socially conservative Family Research Council and others are not only speaking out against Pillard but also the the push to confirm Obama's nominations quickly.
"A lot can happen between now and Congress's August recess -- and that's exactly what conservatives should be concerned about. Senate Democrats seem to be banking on the fact that Americans are on vacation and not paying attention, because liberal leaders are trying to slip in a quiet confirmation hearing for Cornelia "Nina" Pillard," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins wrote this week.
Perkins quoted Pillard as saying abortion functions to "free women from historically routine conscription into maternity" and called her ideology "militant feminism" with "extreme pro-abortion views."
Perkins also pointed to a paper by Pillard published in 2007 by Georgetown Law faculty on the topic of equality as it pertains sex education. In it, Pillard presented some of the stereotypes that seem to be upheld by abstinence-only sex education:
[...] abstinence-only curricula reflect the expectation that women should and will become mothers, rely on their husbands for financial support, care about their relationships with males more than the males do, have a greater stake in and identification with chastity than men, and do not value the importance of sexual release as highly as men do.
She wrote in the paper that she was not taking a "position on the abstinence message itself, beyond arguing that it must not be embedded with sexual stereotypes or discriminatorily applied to women and not men."
But she did say, "Public school teaching of gender stereotypes violates the constitutional bar against sex stereotyping and is vulnerable to equal protection challenge."
"I argue for a counter-stereotyping sex education that affirms women's and men's desire, sexual agency, and responsibility. The same principles that presumptively forbid other kinds of sex-based official action should prevent public schools from training students in accordance with double standards and stereotyping-training that also impairs reproductive justice," she wrote.
Some have taken these thoughts to mean that Pillard would deem teaching abstinence-only sex education as unconstitutional.
Valerie Huber, president of the National Abstinence Education Association, presented CNS News with some counter arguments to Pillard's position:
But abstinence education has no gender bias, Huber said.
"We encourage sexual restraint among young males and young females," Huber said. She added that abstinence education began during World War I and was predicated on "eliminating a double standard for males and females" with regard to sexual behavior.
"The concerns are two-fold. This shows she is not very careful in making legal recommendations," Huber said. "It also shows she clearly has an ideological bent that trumps curious judicial review. Both are reasons she should not be confirmed."
Ed Whelan with National Review Online too has written about Pillard in three parts, reviewing her paper and saying she has "signs of a pro-abortion extremist."
Even with her opponents, some conservatives have come out to support Pillard. Former Assistant Attorney General of the United States Viet Dihn, now known as the founder of a conservative law firm, wrote in a letter of support:
As we do not share academic specialties, I have not studied Professor Pillard's writings in full, but I know her to be a straight shooter when it comes to law and legal interpretation. She is a fair-minded thinker with enormous respect for the law and for the limited, and essential, role of the federal appellate judge-- qualities that make her well prepared to taken on the work of a D.C. Circui judge.
Why does the D.C. Circuit Court matter? As the president put it when he made the announcement of his nominees:
“The D.C. Circuit is known as the second highest court in the country, and there’s a good reason for that. The judges on the D.C. Circuit routinely have the final say on a broad range of cases involving everything from national security to environmental policy; from questions of campaign finance to workers’ rights. In other words, the court’s decisions impact almost every aspect of our lives," Obama said.
Pillard's confirmation hearing was set to take place Wednesday. If Obama's nominations are confirmed by the Senate, it would fill the 11 seats available.
(H/T: Life Site News)