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Senate should reject district court nominee Pitlyk over past surrogacy, IVF comments

If one of Donald Trump’s most recent judicial nominees has her way, thousands of women like me may never be able to become moms.

Like many Americans, my dream of starting a family evolved into a painful struggle that lasted many years. Without dedicated medical professionals and advancements in assisted reproductive technology (ART), including In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), I wouldn’t be here today in one of my most cherished roles: a working mother to two beautiful daughters.

ART and surrogacy have helped thousands of us safely start families, bringing love and joy to households throughout the country, in red and blue states alike. But the views and past writings of Trump nominee Sarah Pitlyk do not reflect this reality—instead, they reveal a judicial perspective and temperament that is harshly ideological and deeply insulting. In an extreme and inaccurate amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court, Pitlyk, whose confirmation vote is scheduled for this afternoon, claimed:

“In addition, the practice of surrogacy has grave effects on society, such as diminished respect for motherhood and the unique mother-child bond; exploitation of women; commodification of gestation and of children themselves; and weakening of appropriate social mores against eugenic abortion.”

Pitlyk crossed a line when she vilified Americans for having the gall to want a baby girl or boy. Her baseless, sweeping generalizations are as erroneous as they are offensive, revealing a cavalier willingness to conflate fact with her own ideological opinions.

I’m all too aware that many, if not most, of Trump’s judicial nominees likely share her hostility toward upholding the precedent in Roe v. Wade, which ensures every American’s constitutional right to choose. However, unlike Pitlyk, other nominees have demonstrated the basic judgment to avoid replacing legal arguments with bizarre falsehoods that antagonize those families who chose to have children with the help of methods and assistance that she personally opposes.

Federal judges must handle complex litigation and demonstrate a willingness to apply the law in a manner consistent with real-world facts, not personal dogma. I fear that if confirmed, Pitlyk would be unable to resist the temptation of authoring flawed, simplistic opinions that would force every would-be parent to adhere to her own extreme ideology.

As a mother who struggled with infertility for years and required IVF to start my family, I’m just one of the many, many Americans who’d never be able to enter her courtroom with any reasonable expectation that my case would be adjudicated in a fair and impartial manner. It’d be simply impossible to trust that Pitlyk’s opinions were based on actual facts and circumstances, rather than on some discriminatory creed. Not after she went so far as to imply in an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court that children conceived with the help of ART are inferior. Not after she dared accuse moms and dads who opt for surrogacy of contributing to “grave effects on society.”

Every American should be empowered to make their own deeply personal decision as to whether and how to begin a family—and no American should be denigrated for starting one with the help of modern medicine or opting to use surrogacy, which is often the last resort. To me, it’s obvious that anyone who actively seeks to demonize parents, or would-be parents, who have struggled with fertility lacks the wisdom, judgment and empathy to serve a lifetime appointment on the federal bench.

A lifetime appointment to the federal bench is a privilege, not a right. Pitlyk’s own words should disqualify her from securing such an honor. I will vote “no” on Sarah Pitlyk’s nomination — and I strongly urge my colleagues in the Senate to join me in protecting American families by voting “no” as well.

Duckworth is the junior senator from Illinois.

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