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Committee Leaders Subverted Senate Rules to Jam Through More Than 20 Nominations 

WASHINGTON D.C. - Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved 17 district and circuit court nominations, many of whom have records of being a danger to civil rights and extreme opponents of women’s health.

One of the nominations approved today was Kyle Duncan for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Duncan has a long record of actively working against women’s health and rights, including fighting against access to birth control and defending anti-abortion laws. His record has earned him the support of anti-abortion groups such as Americans United for Life, Susan B. Anthony List, Concerned Women for America, and the Family Research Council.

Statement from Dana Singiser, Vice President for Government Relations and Public Policy, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:

Today’s Judiciary Committee circus is the latest attempt by Senate GOP leaders and the Trump-Pence administration to stack the courts with dangerous nominees without giving senators or the public the opportunity to fully examine their records. Kyle Duncan, approved today, has built a career on the wrong side of history for women’s and civil rights by dismissing the importance of birth control, and defending extreme anti-abortion laws that imposed medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers.”

“It is particularly troubling that he would sit on the Fifth Circuit, since that court is frequently called upon to review dangerous legislation that attacks abortion and Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Senators must do everything in their power to stop Duncan’s nomination and others like it.

In order to jam through the nominations, committee leaders subverted senate rules by not requiring receipt of support of a nominee - via a “blue slip” - by each home-state senator.  In modern times, no circuit or district court judicial nominee has been confirmed without two “blue slips” from both home-state senators. This process ensured coordination across party lines and between the Senate and the White House and was another protection to keep politics out of the judicial process.

At the markup, Planned Parenthood supporters turned out alongside a broad coalition of civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and other activist organizations to show their opposition to this irresponsible and dangerously rushed process of making lifetime judicial appointments, including at least two nominees that did not have ‘blue slips’ returned. 
 

Background: Duncan’s long history of working to restrict women’s health and rights:

Duncan vigorously fought against the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.  Duncan has even gone so far as to dismiss the importance of access to contraception.  

Duncan served as General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a group that has fought against advancements for women's reproductive rights under the banner of “religious freedom.” Duncan was lead counsel in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, in which the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision that for-profit corporations can have religious beliefs and can deny contraceptive coverage as part of their employer-sponsored health insurance plans when contraception conflicts with those beliefs.

Duncan co-authored an amicus brief in Zubik v. Burwell, another case that challenged the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, arguing that the government accommodation for religious institutions in regards to contraception was not enough. Duncan stated, “[t]he so-called ‘accommodation’ — no less than the original Mandate — continues to coerce” objectors into “complicity with wrongdoing."

As part of his long history of defending anti-abortion laws, Duncan defended a Texas law in 1999 that targeted medical offices providing 300 or more abortion procedures per year, requiring them to become licensed as abortion facilities and comply with onerous and medically unnecessary regulations. He argued that the anti-abortion law “made abortions safer by regulating high-volume clinics and increasing the criminal liability of doctors who perform abortions without a license.” These are common tactics used by anti-abortion advocates to perpetuate the myth that an abortion is an unsafe procedure, while their true goal is to make abortion harder to access.   

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Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including voter education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy. 

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