Bench Memos

D.C. Circuit Nominee Cornelia Pillard—Part 2

See Part 1

A former colleague of D.C. Circuit nominee Cornelia Pillard describes her to me as “Reinhardt in a skirt but less moderate.” Given that Ninth Circuit judge Stephen Reinhardt has a strong claim to being the most aggressive leftist ever to sit on a federal court of appeals, it’s difficult to imagine a more damning assessment.

Another person, a legal academic who is familiar with Pillard’s work on matters concerning sex, abortion, and the family, tells me that Pillard is a “complete ideologue” on those matters, someone who will “twist constitutional doctrine to suit the liberal cause du jour.”

The first of Pillard’s law-review articles that I have waded through—“Our Other Reproductive Choices: Equality in Sex Education, Contraceptive Access, and Work-Family Policy”—amply supports these evaluations.

For starters, Pillard shows all the signs of a pro-abortion extremist (even as she purports to “seek[] common cause” with abortion opponents by broadening the “reproductive rights agenda with measures that make abortion less necessary” (pp. 944, 990)). In her view, “reproductive rights,” including a right to abortion, “should be doubly constitutionally protected by the overlapping liberty and equality guarantees.” A right to abortion is necessary to help to “free[] women from historically routine conscription into maternity” (p. 945 (emphasis added).)

To Pillard, men and women who oppose government mandates on employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception “reinforce[] broader patterns of discrimination against women as a class of presumptive breeders” (p. 975 (emphasis added).) Under her line of reasoning, her same charge surely applies against men and women who support restrictions on abortion (including bars on funding abortion).

Pillard objects in passing to the supposedly “deceptive images of fetus-as-autonomous-being that the anti-choice movement has popularized since the advent of amniocentesis” (p. 990). But she can’t explain what is “deceptive” about images that depict the elementary biological reality that the developing unborn baby, far from being the blob or parasite of pro-abortion mythology, is an individual human organism. (I don’t understand what Pillard means by claiming that pro-lifers present the human fetus as an “autonomous” being; I’ve never heard a pro-lifer dispute the fact that, at least until viability, the unborn baby is critically dependent on her mother for her continued survival.)

Much more to come on this law-review article.


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