Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks to the crowd as his wife Louise looks on after President Donald Trump nominated him to the Supreme Court during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House Jan. 31, 2017 in Washington, D.C. If confirmed, Gorsuch would fill the seat left vacant with the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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Soon after President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Tuesday evening, groups on both sides of the abortion debate were quick to weigh in on the selection — although Gorsuch has never ruled on the issue.
In the absence of a definitive ruling on abortion, pro-life groups pointed to Gorsuch’s rulings on religious liberty cases as reason for hope, while pro-choice groups argued his conservative record indicates trouble for their cause.
Several pro-life groups cited Gorsuch's rulings in the Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases as evidence of a pro-life commitment. The cases both concerned the Affordable Care Act’s Health and Human Services mandate that required employers to cover contraceptive and abortifacient drugs in their health insurance plans. Both organizations objected to the mandate on religious grounds.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser told reporters Tuesday evening that she believes Trump “has kept his promise” to nominate a pro-life justice to the court and called Gorsuch “an exceptional choice," adding:
Judge Gorsuch is a distinguished jurist with a strong record of protecting life and religious liberty, as evidenced by his opinions in the Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases, and in his doctoral dissertation in which he wrote that "human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable." In the coming days, we will mobilize the pro-life grassroots nationwide and in key Senate battleground states to urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Should pro-abortion Democratic Senators choose to filibuster this immensely qualified nominee, they do so at their own political peril.
Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, said in a statement that she is “thrilled” by the Gorsuch nomination. She called him “a strict Constitutionalist and firm supporter of religious freedom and liberties dictated by the Founding Fathers.”
Judge Gorsuch is an excellent replacement for the late Justice Scalia, and one who has the potential to leave a powerful legacy. The Supreme Court was of great concern to voters this past November and the Senate should take swift action to confirm Judge Gorsuch to the high Court to ensure a full slate of Justices. The Senate unanimously confirmed Judge Gorsuch to the 10th US Circuit of Appeals and they should follow their previous example.
“We aren't tired of winning yet," Hawkins added, a reference to Trump’s remark on the campaign trail that Americans would get “tired of winning” during his presidency.
Clarke Forsythe, acting president of Americans United for Life, said in a statement, “Neil Gorsuch’s nomination shows that President Trump values the legacy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and is dedicated to ensuring that the Supreme Court is staffed by jurists who respect the Constitution, not by politicians who vote with their policy preferences.”
“Justice Scalia understood that a judicial commitment to the original meaning of the Constitution and the intent of the Framers is necessary in order to preserve our representative government, and the record of Neil Gorsuch demonstrates a similar dedication to constitutional originalism,” Forsythe added.
Pro-choice groups responded to the nomination with dismay.
Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement that “the stakes couldn’t be higher when it comes to women and our lives” and alleged that “Gorsuch represents an existential threat to legal abortion in the United States and must never wear the robes of a Supreme Court justice.”
With a clear track record of supporting an agenda that undermines abortion access and endangers women, there is no doubt that Gorsuch is a direct threat to Roe v. Wade and the promise it holds for women's equality. The fact that the court has repeatedly reaffirmed Roe over the past four decades would no longer matter, just as facts often don't seem to matter to President Trump. Confirming Gorsuch to a lifetime on the Supreme Court would make good on Trump's repeated promises to use his appointments to overturn Roe v. Wade and punish women.
Planned Parenthood expressed opposition to Gorsuch as well.
In a statement, Jodi Magee, president and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health, expressed concern over the appointment:
The nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch is deeply concerning, as President Trump has promised that any judge he nominates will overturn Roe v. Wade. Any prospective Supreme Court nominee must hold views consistent with the Constitution and settled law about a woman’s ability to make her own reproductive health decisions. That must include upholding Roe v. Wade — the law of the land for 44 years. Women rely on this decision every day.
“We cannot go backward, or it will be at the expense of the well-being of the women our physicians care for every day,” Magee added. “These are our friends, sisters, mothers, and daughters as one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime. We urge the Senate to reject Judge Gorsuch because he does not meet the essential qualifications for service on our highest court.”
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