There are plenty of reasons to criticize the single-issue voters who are willing to put up with a mentally-ill, deeply-corrupt President if they think their votes will translate into the nomination and confirmation of “conservative” judges–defined as judges likely to overrule Roe v. Wade.
Unfortunately, “conservative” judicial candidates able to pass the right’s litmus test aren’t just reliably anti-choice. Individuals who are willing to ignore stare decisis and the multiple complexities of women’s situations in order to criminalize the termination of pregnancy don’t approach that decision in a vacuum.
Scholars who have researched the differences between pro-life and pro-choice activists have concluded that both positions are elements of far more comprehensive world-views, some religious, some not.
Pro-life activism more often than not includes the belief that men and women are intrinsically different–and that, as a result of those differences (as one study has put it), men are best suited for the public world of work, while women are best suited to rearing children. These worldviews frequently include homophobia, and often a (selective) rejection of science.
Lawyers who argue that government has the right to decide such intimate matters for individual women are conservative only in the sense that they elevate “tradition” over the limitations that the Bill of Rights places on state power. They tend to see the United States as a “Christian nation,” and are thus willing to rule in accordance with the beliefs of (some) Christian denominations and to ignore the doctrines of denominations or religions that do not consider abortion or homosexuality sinful.
I do not think it overstates the case to assert that a significant number of the “conservative” lawyers being elevated to the federal bench aren’t simply anti-choice; they are anti-modernity.
I thought about the consequences of staffing the federal courts with people who define conservatism in this very narrow way when I saw news about a recent case involving the EPA.
In a victory for science and public health, a federal court determined that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cannot exclude scientists who have received EPA research grants—who happen to be mainly academic scientists from research universities—from serving on its advisory panels. The change, made by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, had a silencing effect on public health studies.
The court’s decision in the case, which was brought by NRDC in 2019, “affirms the role of science in protecting our environment and public health,” says Jon Devine, director of federal water policy for NRDC’s Nature Program. “This is a victory for basic truth and good governance.”
Pruitt claimed that his 2017 directive reduced bias on the EPA’s nearly two dozen advisory panels, which offer scientific expertise that then guide policy decisions on environmental pollutants, such as industrial chemicals or airborne particles from power plants. But unsurprisingly, Pruitt’s rule was not extended to scientists and consultants with ties to chemical or fossil fuel companies, allowing the agency to soon fill some open seats with industry insiders who disputed the known harm of pollutants, like ozone and PFOA.
Devine calls the now-debunked plan a “pernicious scheme to stack the deck in favor of big polluters by trying to shut out the voices of scientists—all to pump more pollution into our lives.”
The ruling was handed down by Judge Denise Cote for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, after several courts had tossed similar claims.
It’s safe to assume that Judge Cote was not a Trump appointee–NPR recently reported that 70% of Trump’s judicial appointments have been white men. (As of last August, he had not nominated a single African American or a single Latinx to the appellate courts.)
And speaking of terrifying world-views,
Dozens of those nominees have refused to answer whether they support the Supreme Court’s holding in Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 opinion that said racial segregation of public schools is unconstitutional.
I wonder how many of the people who voted for Trump because they oppose Roe v. Wade will be equally happy with the other decisions these “conservatives” will inevitably hand down?