NWLC Issues Report on Judge Gorsuch’s Record on Women’s Legal Rights

Today, NWLC released its report on Judge Neil Gorsuch’s record on women’s legal rights.  President Trump’s nomination of Judge Gorsuch followed his repeated and unprecedented commitments as to the kind of individual he would nominate as a Supreme Court Justice. First, Trump guaranteed that his Supreme Court nominees would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, even declaring that if he were elected Roe would be overturned “automatically.” Second, he said that he would nominate a Justice “in the mold” of the late Justice Scalia, a Justice who, in addition to consistently voting to overturn Roe v. Wade, voted to strip legal and constitutional antidiscrimination protections from women and girls at work, at school, and in their communities. This is a promise confirmed by Judge Gorsuch’s words and legal approach. A recent study analyzing Judge Gorsuch’s ideology concluded that he would, if confirmed, actually be more conservative than Justice Scalia – and “probably one of the least likely to drift [ideologically] once he got on the Court.” Third, Trump promised to only select someone who appeared on lists approved by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society – in effect, outsourcing the vetting of his Supreme Court nominees to these right-wing groups. Judge Gorsuch appeared on their approved list. Indeed, when he announced the nomination, President Trump proclaimed that he was “a man of his word” – in other words, that nominating Judge Gorsuch fulfilled his campaign promises.
Every Supreme Court Justice makes a profound difference on the Court and a single Justice can shape the court for generations to come. Each nominee therefore has the burden of demonstrating, as an affirmative matter, not only that he or she meets the necessary requirements of honesty, integrity, character, temperament, intellect, and lack of bias in applying the law, but also a commitment to protecting the rights of ordinary people, including civil rights and individual liberties, rights embedded in core constitutional principles and statutes that include protections for women’s most central legal rights.
Given Trump’s explicit promises and attacks on judicial independence, it is especially important to scrutinize Judge Gorsuch’s fitness to serve on this most important court. In reviewing a nominee’s record, the National Women’s Law Center focuses, in particular, on the constitutional right to privacy (which includes the right to abortion and related aspects of women’s reproductive rights and health) and on antidiscrimination protections, including prohibitions against sex discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause or statutory provisions that protect against discrimination in  education and employment, and beyond. In addition, protections of women’s health and safety, social welfare, access to justice and public benefits represent areas of importance to women, and thus to the Center. Moreover, given that Gorsuch was described as a “true loyalist” when applying to a political position in the Bush Department of Justice and that, after Judge Gorsuch’s nomination, Trump Administration officials have said that President Trump and Judge Gorsuch “support each other,” and that Judge Gorsuch “represents the type of judge that has the vision of Donald Trump,”  the issue of judicial independence and willingness to serve as a check on the Executive Branch, are also highly relevant questions pertaining to this nomination.
Our review of Judge Gorsuch’s record reveals a troubling pattern of narrowly approaching the legal principles upon which every day women across the nation rely. The record demonstrates that Judge Gorsuch’s approach to the law disadvantages women and routinely favors corporations, employers, and entrenched powers, whether by ruling that corporations are “persons” that can hold religious beliefs and that those religious beliefs can deny women birth control coverage, espousing an approach to the Constitution that would curtail protections for women against their employers and other powerful entities, or by threatening other critically important advances for women and girls at school, in health care and beyond. Further, Judge Gorsuch’s record fails to establish that he would exercise judicial independence and enforce firm limits on executive power.
Based on a broad review of Judge Gorsuch’s record, the Center has concluded that his confirmation to the Supreme Court would mean a serious setback for women in this country and for generations to come.  For the full report, please visit the Center’s website.