Protecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th Congress

Protecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th Congress
© Greg Nash

As the country celebrates the historically diverse and progressive 116th Congress, President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees have been overwhelmingly white, male, and conservative. On Wednesday, President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report MORE released his 19th wave of nominees for lifetime seats on the federal judiciary. All six of them are white men.

Many of the judges that President Donald Trump appoints to the federal courts are an extension of his dangerous agenda stretching long into the future, affecting the rights and lives of our children and grandchildren.

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The judiciary is the last line of defense against Trump’s attacks on reproductive health and rights — attacks that hurt women and people of color the most. As we saw in the 2018 election, voters are trying desperately to move our country forward, while Trump is determined to remake the judiciary in the image of a bygone era. And already these judges — who were strongly opposed by Planned Parenthood and our 12 million supporters — are showing how they will reshape our rights.

One of the few women Trump appointed to the judiciary has a record as an extreme anti-abortion legal scholar. Now on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Amy Coney Barrett previously called Roe v. Wade an “erroneous decision” and asserted that judges should not follow the law or the Constitution if it conflicts with their personal religious beliefs. Last year, in a  case challenging a sweeping Indiana bill that placed numerous restrictions on access to safe, legal abortion, Barrett joined a dissent in favor of upholding the law – in direct opposition to U.S. Supreme Court precedent. In effect, Barrett believes that politicians have the right to interfere in some of the most personal medical decisions women make.

If Trump is allowed to continue stacking the courts with judges like this, it is only a matter of time before Roe and a host of other cases protecting our personal liberties are whittled away or outright overturned.

Thanks to the leadership of Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP MORE (D-N.Y.), against all odds, we shut down 31 of Trump’s extreme nominees at the end of 2018. That’s the type of victory that doesn’t make a lot of headlines, yet can make all the difference to delay and defeat Trump’s agenda. Now the White House is likely to renominate them and others any day.

We need the 116th Congress to stand just as strong. It is the duty of the Senators to continue to ask hard questions to determine if these nominees can be fair and impartial. We applaud the senators who continue to ask those questions and we implore them to continue to scrutinize these nominees to the highest degree. We ask supporters of women’s access to safe and legal abortion to stay vigilant during the 116th Congress and to hold your senator accountable for every vote they take on these nominees.

It is up to all of us who value personal liberty and reproductive health and rights to ensure that the courts are an issue that voters understand and care about. Progressive leaders and organizations must lay the groundwork today and in next two years to educate our supporters on what a bench of Trump appointees means for our future, and spur them to action. Because 2020 may seem far away, but the fight for our rights is happening now and every day. We cannot be careless, and we will not be silent.

Dana Singiser is the vice president of public policy and government affairs at Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Updated at 12:56 p.m.