At Louisiana federal district court nominee Wendy Vitter’s April 11 confirmation hearing, she and Republican home state senator John Kennedy went to great lengths to obscure how her actions as an anti-choice activist make her unqualified for the bench. Vitter repeatedly claimed that if she is confirmed, she will set her personal views aside in cases involving abortion.
Kennedy asked Vitter (and the other three nominees on the panel), “Do you have personal feelings about abortion?” He then asked, “Notwithstanding those feelings, do you intend to follow United States Supreme Court precedent as a federal district court judge?” Kennedy made quite a show of it, asking similar questions concerning the Second Amendment and segregation in public schools. His message was clear: As long as nominees claim they can put their own opinions aside, their personal feelings about abortion have no impact on their qualifications to be a judge.
But at Kyle Duncan’s hearing for the Fifth Circuit in November 2017, Kennedy suggested the opposite: that he expects anti-choice judges to incorporate their personal opposition to abortion rights into their decisions from the bench. In fact, the Louisiana senator would not support a nominee otherwise. Kennedy made this clear as he explained that he had known little about Washington, D.C. lawyer Kyle Duncan before Trump nominated him for a Louisiana slot on the Fifth Circuit:
So the truth is that I don’t know Mr. Duncan very well. I’m looking forward today to learning more about him.
Here’s what I do know. Number one, Mr. Duncan is staunchly and vociferously pro-life. So am I. I like that about him.
I know some of you don’t. In fact, I don’t think I’ve knowingly voted for a nominee coming out of this committee who was not pro-life.
If Kennedy expects a judicial nominee to put their personal opinions aside as a judge, then why did it matter that Duncan opposes abortion rights? Why bring it up at all? And why wouldn’t Kennedy vote for a nominee who isn’t “pro-life?”
It’s hardly a surprise that Kennedy and his fellow Republicans want judges to decide cases based on their personal beliefs about abortion, among several other issues. In fact, during the presidential campaign, Donald Trump explicitly promised to “appoint pro-life judges.”
Wendy Vitter is strongly anti-choice. She has even encouraged others—including physicians—to use disproven fabrications to advance her agenda of dissuading women from exercising their constitutional right to abortion. Litigants seeking to exercise their right to abortion would not get a fair hearing in her courtroom—and that’s one of the reasons she was nominated.