Madeline Albright famously said, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” While supporting women leadership is important, it’s equally important to call-out behavior that is harmful to women, even if it means criticizing women seeking positions of power. This is especially true when it comes to federal judgeships. These appointments are lifelong and a judge’s power is far-reaching, which is why we can’t hold our tongue about President Trump’s latest extreme pick: Sarah Pitlyk, who was just confirmed to a seat on the Eastern District of Missouri.
The judiciary has always had a major diversity problem. And under the Trump administration, it’s getting worse. Seventy-eight percent of Trump’s nominees are men, compared to 58 percent of Obama’s. So, when this administration nominates a woman to the courts, it’s noteworthy. But, like many extremists that Trump has nominated to the federal courts, Ms. Pitlyk has a proven track-record of harming other women.
Not all women are champions of women. Instead, some women can be anti-woman. To me, judicial nominees are anti-woman if they have made anti-abortion statements or written articles that discredit rape survivors. They’re anti-woman if they attack reproductive rights or LGBTQ equality in the courts, or, if they’re a judge, render court decisions that hurt health care access or harm those facing discrimination.
We see this exact anti-woman record with Trump judge Sarah Pitlyk
Ms. Pitlyk’s gender doesn’t change the fact that she’s spent her entire career trying to dismantle Roe v. Wade and eliminate access to reproductive health. For example, she used a divorce proceeding to attack Roe and attempted to declare frozen fertilized eggs unborn children. This dangerous and extreme argument could have blocked access to reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertilization and criminalized a range of pregnancy-related care. She further criticized assisted reproductive technologies in an amicus brief she submitted to the Supreme Court that argues that those who “conceived spontaneously” have “better outcomes” than those who use in-vitro fertilization to form their families, a completely offensive and cruel statement with highly negative implications.
Ms. Pitlyk also backed an unconstitutional abortion ban in Iowa—legislation so extreme that it would have banned abortion before most people even know they’re pregnant. She also tried to limit birth control coverage. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., she took the side of corporations in saying that requiring insurance plans to cover birth control forced employers to “cooperate in the destruction of human life.”
With her extreme record, Ms. Pitlyk can’t be trusted with a lifetime seat on the federal bench, especially in Missouri, a state that has been relentlessly seeking to take away people’s right to decide whether to obtain an abortion. This is a state that passed a blatantly unconstitutional abortion ban earlier this year. It is a state that has been tracking patients’ menstrual cycles in a shameful attempt to undercut the safety and efficacy of abortions. Missouri is dangerously close to becoming the first in the nation without an abortion clinic but courts have had to step in to protect abortion rights and block these attacks. The addition of Sarah Pitlyk to the federal court would put in jeopardy the reproductive rights of those in Missouri and other parts of the country.
Yes, diversity on the bench improves legal decision making. It enhances the court’s understanding of the real-life implications of rulings. It ensures the public’s trust of the courts. But, simply being a woman, an identity that’s underrepresented on the bench, does not automatically make you a champion for women. To earn that designation, judicial nominees must also have a demonstrated commitment to the issues important to women: justice, civil rights, equal rights, individual liberties, and the fundamental constitutional rights of equal protection, dignity, and liberty, including the right to abortion. A record of opposing these rights squarely places you in the anti-woman bucket.
Ms. Pitlyk falls squarely in the anti-woman bucket.
Being a champion for women means rejecting those who do not support the fundamental rights that are critical to women. We shouldn’t simply settle for women leaders, we must demand leaders who will fight for women.