Did one of Trump’s judicial nominees really say that Brown v. the Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court case ending segregated schools, may have been wrongly decided?
Sort of—but only to hide her extreme views on abortion.
So far, every one of the pro-life judges that Trump has nominated has followed the same script on abortion: refuse to answer whether Roe v. Wade was rightly decided, but say that you’ll put aside your personal views and follow Supreme Court precedent.
Wendy Vitter, nominated to the federal bench in the Eastern District of Louisiana, was following that script Wednesday when Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said, well, OK, what about Brown?
“I get into a difficult area,” Vitter replied, “when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions—which are correctly decided, which I disagree with. Again, my personal, political, or religious views, I would set aside.”
So, now there are headlines like “Trump federal judicial nominee refuses to say whether she supports racial segregation in schools.”
That’s not really fair, but it’s hard to feel much sympathy for Vitter, whose anti-science, anti-choice comments have been so extreme that she failed to disclose them in her judicial questionnaire. That’s the real scandal.
Of course, since the filibuster’s been eliminated for judicial nominees, it’s all a song and dance anyway. So far, not a single Republican senator—not McCain, not Flake, nobody—has voted against a single Trump judicial nominee. All you have to do is somehow, some way make it through your confirmation hearing, and then you can do what you were put on the bench to do: Please Evangelical voters by chipping away at the right to abortion (and now contraception as well).
That’s how we get spectacles like Vitter refusing to agree (or disagree) with one of the most important civil-rights cases in history.
Incidentally, if Vitter’s name rings a bell, it’s because she’s married to David Vitter, the former Republican senator and hard-right “family-values” firebrand who was forced to admit that he frequented the “D.C. Madam” prostitution ring. (He is rumored to have paid prostitutes to spank him while he wore adult diapers, though this was never confirmed.)
But Wendy Vitter is an extremist in her own right who should never have been nominated to the federal bench.
In 2013, sh said in a speech that “Planned Parenthood says they promote women’s health. It is the saddest of ironies that they kill over 150,000 females a year.” (Apparently, she meant female fetuses.)
Confronted by Blumenthal about those remarks, Vitter at first said she couldn’t recall them. Then Blumenthal read them to her. Then Vitter said that, oh yes, that was me, but I wouldn’t let my personal views decide cases. Then Blumenthal interrupted, saying, “I’m really not asking you about setting aside personal views. I’m asking you, very simply: You said Planned Parenthood kills 150,000 females a year. 150,000 people. Do you stand by that statement? It’s a yes or no.”
Vitter’s astonishing reply was “Senator, I feel, again, my pro-life stance has been very clear.”
In other words, yes, she stands by that categorically false statement. (It’s not even clear what pseudo-science/fake-news source she got it from.)
Also in 2013, Vitter promoted a brochure that said, among other things, that using birth control causes women to be assaulted or murdered, because women on the pill tend to prefer men with similar genetic backgrounds, and such couplings lead to more violence. Confronted with this claim by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Vitter admitted that it made no sense at all.
At the same panel, Vitter praised Texas’s efforts to “mak[e] it very difficult to get abortions” by requiring abortion providers to abide by a host of new regulations. In 2016, the Supreme Court struck down those regulations as scientifically unjustified and an “undue burden” on women seeking care.
Notably, Vitter omitted these two 2013 events in her Senate questionnaire. In 2010, then-Senator Jeff Sessions pointed out that such omissions—in that case, by Obama judicial appointee Goodwin Liu—are felonies punishable by two years in jail, and Senate Republicans filibustered Liu’s nomination as a result. Again, that’s when there was a filibuster.
The fact is, it doesn’t matter that Vitter is a liar, an extremist, a promoter of pseudo-science, and, as an added bonus, someone unwilling to say whether Brown v. the Board of Ed was rightly decided. She’s going to be confirmed because she is “pro-life.”
Everyone knows that these confirmations are a charade. The federal judiciary is being packed by hard-right extremists, especially when it comes to women’s health and reproductive issues: One judge compared abortion to slavery, another called transgender kids evidence of “Satan’s plan,” still another was deemed unqualified by the American Bar Association because of his “local reputation for bias.”
Vitter’s choreographed dance steps on abortion are a charade as well. Of course, judges don’t simply import their personal religious views into their decision-making. But they do evaluate cases based on their values and ideologies. If you think that Roe v. Wade was an example of judicial overreach, you are going to take a narrow reading of it when an abortion or contraception case comes your way.
And that’s the whole point. Vitter is where she is because evangelicals elected Trump to end legal abortion. It’s that simple. And yet she has contorted herself into such a knot denying that obvious truth that she’s ended up looking like a bigot who can’t condemn segregation. If you ask me, that’s just desserts.