In some very exciting news, President Obama recently nominated Nina Pillard, a Georgetown law professor who argued two major cases involving women’s rights before the Supreme Court, to the to U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In much less exciting news, conservative groups such as the Family Research Council are already pushing to block her appointment to the court because she is some sort of radical feminist.
Except, of course, Pillard is not that radical of a feminist. Most of the attacks stem from an article that she wrote where she endorsed giving women widespread access to contraception because:
If impaired access to contraceptives hinders women’s ability to exercise choice about when and whether to have children, it also reinforces broader patterns of discrimination against women as a class of presumptive breeders rather than reliable breadwinners and citizens.
Nine out of 10 Americans think that women using birth control is morally acceptable; it is not exactly a radical position to take.
In the same article, Pillard discussed how various policies prevent women from being truly equal, including a lack of flexibility provided for women in the work place and the way sexual education is taught in schools. The second point is also being criticized by conservative Republicans. In the article, Pillard said that most sex-ed programs that focus on abstinence only promote a double standard—girls are shamed into not having sex, while boys are told it’s all right for them to want sex. That discrepancy potentially violates the 14th amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Pillard argued for an egalitarian, non-discriminatory teaching model that would avoid the use of stereotypes.
Of course this argument was instantly twisted by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who claimed that Pillard would make all abstinence-based sex-ed illegal. Pillard never said that; she simply said that relying on stereotypes in sex-ed could potentially violate the Equal Protection Clause.
Republican senators, with Cruz and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in the lead, have already begun attacking Pillard and casting doubts on if she should be confirmed. But Pillard is more than qualified to serve on the circuit court; She has argued six cases before the Supreme Court and works as a professor at a well-regarded law school. It is clear that Grassley, Cruz and conservative organizations don’t want Pillard on the court simply because her basic feminist beliefs are threatening. Refusing to confirm Pillard would be an obviously partisan move and would send the message to women interested in the law that acknowledging feminism’s basic tenets is a death sentence to judicial success.
Picture of Pillard from her website