On Jan. 31, President Donald Trump fulfilled his campaign promise to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the bench with someone who shared his originalist judicial philosophy and named 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch as his nominee to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat.
Gorsuch was immediately attacked by Democrats and their allies at Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, who denounced his opposition to abortion rights.
Pro-life groups are pleased with the selection. Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said that during his decade on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, Gorsuch “showed support for conscience rights in two cases involving Obamacare mandates.” Tobias also had praise for Gorsuch because “he dissented from a ruling hostile to Utah’s attempts to curb funding for Planned Parenthood (Planned Parenthood Association of Utah v. Herbert).”
Americans United for Life acting president Clarke Forsythe also praised Trump’s choice: “Neil Gorsuch’s nomination shows that President Trump values the legacy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and is dedicated to ensuring that the Supreme Court is staffed by jurists who respect the Constitution, not by politicians who vote with their policy preferences.”
Susan B. Anthony List, which supports pro-life female candidates, said: “President Trump has made an exceptional choice in nominating Neil Gorsuch to carry on the legacy of the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.” The List’s president Marjorie Dannenfeiser said, “In nominating Judge Gorsuch, President Trump has kept his promise to nominate only pro-life judges to the Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch is a distinguished jurist with a strong record of protecting life and religious liberty, as evidenced by his opinions in the Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases, and in his doctoral dissertation in which he wrote that ‘human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable’.”
Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council: “I was pleased to witness President Trump follow through on his promise and select a nominee from the list he presented during the campaign. “Perkins, who was in attendance at the White House for the announcement, said, “the President has been very clear on the type of justices that he would appoint: textualists who will not issue rulings based on the shadows of the Constitution.”
In his “2016 Sumner Carnary Memorial Lecture” looking at the legacy of Antonin Scalia, Gorsuch said: “Judges should instead strive (if humanly and so imperfectly) to apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to text, structure, and history to decide what a reasonable reader at the time of the events in question would have understood the law to be — not to decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best.”
In 2009, Princeton University Press published The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, in which Gorsuch defended the idea that “human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable, and that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.” Because of this, he argued, assisted suicide and euthanasia are fundamentally “incompatible with the promise of equal justice under law.”
Despite being approved unanimously to the Appellate Court a decade ago, leading Democrats have indicated they want to keep Gorsuch off the Supreme Court, and “reproductive rights” will be a main talking point.
Gorsuch will not radically alter the make-up of the Supreme Court in the short-term. Replacing the late Scalia means that the Court is still divided four-four-one, with Justice Anthony Kennedy being a swing vote. On moral issues (life, homosexuality, religious liberty) Justice Kennedy has generally swung over with the liberals.