Pro-Life Activists Praise Gorsuch Nomination

Trump nominated 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalia's seat

Donald Trump,Neil Gorsuch
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Judge Neil Gorsuch in East Room of the White House / AP
February 1, 2017

Pro-life activists praised Donald Trump for elevating Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Monday.

Trump announced the selection at a Monday evening broadcast to the nation, praising Gorsuch for his originalist jurisprudence and his experience as a judge on the Colorado-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. He pointed out Gorsuch's record of bipartisan support, highlighting his unanimous confirmation to the federal bench.

"I have selected an individual whose qualities define … what we're looking for," Trump said from the White House. "Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline, and has earned bipartisan support."

Gorsuch, 49, has yet to rule on a case involving abortion, though he did object to a 10th Circuit panel ruling that blocked Utah from defunding Planned Parenthood in October. While not a member of the three-judge panel that issued the injunction, he called for an en banc review of the case that would have allowed the case to be reheard by every judge in the circuit.

"When the case reached this court, a panel disagreed and ordered the governor to fund [Planned Parenthood]. In doing so, I respectfully submit, the panel acted inconsistently with this court’s previously uniform practice when it comes to questions concerning our standard of review and the burden of proof, questions of considerable legal significance," he said in his dissent.

A majority of judges declined the request for a rehearing.

Gorsuch also has a track record of advancing pro-life causes in other areas. He authored "The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia," a treatise that outlined his "nuanced, novel, and powerful moral and legal argument against legalization [of euthanasia], one based on a principle that, surprisingly, has largely been overlooked in the debate—the idea that human life is intrinsically valuable and that intentional killing is always wrong."

Pro-life activists hailed the appointment following the announcement.

Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, said that Gorsuch's book and other legal writings demonstrated that he is committed to protecting the rights of the unborn.

"From his writings and his record it is clear that he will interpret the Constitution as it was written, including our first Amendment right to religious freedom, and the right to life of every person," Anderson said in a statement.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, was also pleased.

"We are thrilled with Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the US Supreme Court by President Trump," she said in a statement. "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."

Gorsuch will fill the seat left vacant after Antonin Scalia's sudden death in February 2016. In brief remarks, he hailed the late justice as a "lion of the law." He outlined his judicial philosophy, saying that he hoped to bring "impartiality and independence, collegiality and courage" to the bench.

"It is for Congress, not the courts to write new laws," Gorsuch said. "A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge, stretching for results he prefers rather than those the law demands."

Gorsuch could face a rocky confirmation battle moving forward. Senate Republicans blocked outgoing President Barack Obama's nomination of Washington, D.C., Apellate Judge Merrick Garland, saying that the choice should reflect the will of voters in an election year. Senate Democrats have vowed to filibuster Trump's pick in retribution for the "stolen seat."

Six Democrats have rejected the idea of automatically filibustering the nomination.

Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Joe Manchin (W.V.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), and Chris Coons (Del.) have all said that the nominee deserves a full confirmation hearing or an up-or-down vote. All but Blumenthal and Coons are up for re-election in 2018.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, praised Trump for keeping his campaign "promise to nominate only pro-life judges." She said that activists are ready to pressure Democrats to speed the confirmation along.

"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," Dannenfelser said in a release. "Should pro-abortion Democratic Senators choose to filibuster this immensely qualified nominee, they do so at their own political peril."

Trump said that he hopes Gorsuch's nomination to the high court would mirror his unanimous confirmation to the 10th Circuit in 2006.

"That's unanimous. Can you believe that nowadays with what's going on. Does that happen anymore? Does it happen? I think it's going to happen, maybe again," he said between applause from the crowd.

Senate rules mandate a 60-vote majority to break a filibuster on a Supreme Court nomination. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to confirm the pick and has not taken off the possibility of changing the rules to allow a simple majority vote as Democrats did in 2013 to confirm several Obama nominees to the federal bench.