Less than a week remains to stop Judge Neil Gorsuch from becoming a United States Supreme Court Justice. Senate Democrats, led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), will attempt to filibuster his appointment—and must if they intend to protect and defend the progress that has been made for women, people of color, disabled folks and other marginalized groups over the last century.
Women have a lot to lose if Gorsuch is appointed. His judicial mentality on the bench will be especially detrimental to women’s rights and reproductive health, and he has shown a willingness over his career to choose corporate interests over women’s rights and well-being. Roe is at risk with Gorsuch on the bench—but so are myriad other issues.
“Together we can build the will of Senators to #StopGorsuch,” Eleanor Smeal, Feminist Majority President, said in an email to activists this week. These are seven reasons we must.
#1: To Protect Birth Control Access
As a member of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch ruled against upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) birth control benefit in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell. In both cases, Gorsuch argued that providing employees with birth control coverage violated an employer’s religious freedom—and that women’s healthcare mattered less than an employer’s privately-held religious beliefs.
#2: To Protect Roe and Planned Parenthood
Gorsuch is against the legal principles on which Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of abortion, is founded. In his book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia” he wrote: “All human beings are intrinsically valuable, and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”
Although he has never ruled on abortion rights directly from the bench, in October 2016 he dissented with a Tenth Circuit majority blocking the state of Utah from defunding Planned Parenthood after anti-abortion activists released manipulative videos falsely accusing the family planning provider of selling fetal tissue. Another Judge, who wrote for the majority, said he had “mischaracterized this litigation and the panel opinion at several turns” in the case.
#3: To Protect Pregnant Workers
Jennifer Sisk, a University of Colorado Law School alumni, said that during a legal ethics and professionalism class, Gorsuch told his students that companies should ask women about their pregnancy plan during job interviews, alleging in his lecture that women manipulate their employers by taking maternity leave with the long-term intention of quitting their jobs to stay home with their children:
[H]e asked the class to raise their hands if they knew of a female who had used a company to get maternity benefits and then left right after having a baby. Judge Gorsuch specifically targeted females and maternity leave. This question was not about parents or men shifting priorities after having children. It was solely focused on women using their companies… Gorsuch told the class that not only could a future employer ask female interviewees about their pregnancy and family plans, companies must ask females about their family and pregnancy plans to protect the company. Judge Gorsuch tied this back to his original comment that companies need to ask these questions in order to protect themselves against female employees.
Throughout this class Judge Gorsuch continued to make it very clear that the question of commitment to work over family was one that only women had to answer for.
#4: To Fight Rape Culture
In high school, Neil Gorsuch started a club called “Fascism Forever.” At Columbia University, Gorsuch wrote in two campus publications about his support for investments in apartheid South Africa and on-campus military recruitment. The most troubling part of his youth, however, may be his pride in being part of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity—one often accused of racism, sexism and sexual assault:
Gorsuch’s own fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta—known more commonly as FIJI—welcomed him as a freshman in the spring of 1986 and he remained an active member until his early graduation in 1988. According to school newspaper reports and interviews with former Columbia students, FIJI’s reputation was unrivaled among Columbia’s 12 other fraternities at the time—defined by accusations of hard-partying, racism, sexism, and date rape. FIJI, as one former member claimed, was known as a house where the spiked punch flowed, and party tents known as “smut huts” were erected for one clear purpose.
The Phi Gamma Delta page in Columbia’s 1988 yearbook is a testament to the fact that FIJI’s party-hearty reputation wasn’t solely the product of rumors from know-nothing outsiders. It’s difficult to tell whether Gorsuch is among the 30 mostly white teens smiling from the fraternity’s group photo (they really do all look alike), but he is listed in the caption as one of its 42 members.
Along with a year of “leadership, athleticism, and community service,” the men of FIJI listed in the yearbook their other defining successes of 1988. Among them: drunken campus parties, alleged sexual prowess, and an unrivaled level of administrative discipline.
#5: To Protect Environmental Regulations
Neil Gorsuch does not stand firm on the side of conservation in his work. His track record indicates that he would limit giving federal agencies, such as the EPA, broad powers to interpret the law—and he has “shown a willingness” to limit the role environmental groups can play in suits about public land.
#6: To Protect Disability Rights
Jeffrey Perkins, the father of an autistic student at the center of a 2008 Colorado case, testified against Gorsuch—who ruled in favor of a school district that Perkins and other parents claimed was failing their children. Gorsuch wrote the opinion for the court, arguing the school had complied with federal disability law because the student needed to show gains that were “merely more than de minmis.” His ruling was overturned unanimously by the Supreme Court just last week:
While the student showed some progress in classes, he didn’t seem to retain what he’d learned. Gorsuch wrote the opinion, which reversed three prior rulings, arguing the school had complied with federal disability law because the student needed to show gains that were “merely more than de minimis.”
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that public schools must go the extra mile to educate special needs children. The decision specifically challenges the legal standard used by the 10th Circuit to interpret the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires a “free and appropriate public education” for disabled students.
“Thank you for the opportunity today to give voice to my son, Luke, whose access to an appropriate education, and thus to a meaningful and dignified life, was threatened by views of Judge Neil Gorsuch,” Perkins said. “Judge Gorsuch thought that an education for my son that was even one small step above insignificant was acceptable.”
#7: To Fight Originalism
Gorsuch shares the theory of originalism, as well as textualism. “Textualism” refers to the practice of interpreting the Constitution literally; “originalism” refers to interpreting those words without taking into account how the nation and our laws have evolved since they were written. The Constitution does not explicitly state that textualism or originalism are the correct theories of constitutional interpretation—and both tend to be utilized by far-right judges like Antonin Scalia, who insisted that women weren’t protected by the Constitution because they were not explicitly written into it.
Meliss Arteaga is an editorial intern at Ms. She studied at California State University Northridge and has a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minor in gender and women studies.