Our Perspective: What Supreme Court Nominee Gorsuch Means for Abortion Rights

President Donald Trump made it clear: “I will appoint [Supreme Court] judges that will be pro-life,” Trump promised on the campaign trail. Vice President Mike Pence doubled down on Trump’s promise during a speech on Jan. 19 at the March for Life Demonstration in D.C.. But, as the first weeks of Trump’s presidency have shown, you can’t always take Trump’s words as truth. Trump nominated judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Jan. 31.  So the question stands: did Trump keep his promise and nominate an anti- abortion Supreme Court nominee? The short answer is ‘yes’.  More specifically, here’s what Gorsuch means for reproductive rights:

Judge Gorsuch has never ruled on an abortion case and has never made a public statement about his views on abortion. However, Gorsuch sided with Hobby Lobby in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores - a case that ultimately went to the Supreme Court.  Hobby Lobby argued against the Affordable Care Act’s mandate requiring employers to cover contraceptives in employee health insurance plans. In Gorsuch ’s opinion he stated, “[the mandate] underwrites payments for drugs or devices that can have the effect of destroying a fertilized human egg”.  Gorsuch’s statement is reflective of anti-abortion rhetoric against effective forms of birth control.  Contraceptives help reduce the likelihood of unintended pregnancies and do not destroy already fertilized eggs. Gorsuch’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case and anti-abortion language throughout his opinion, is evidence that Gorsuch is likely to weigh arguments against abortion access favorably.

Why do Gorsuch’s views on abortion matter?

As illustrated by the recent immigration ban, the courts will have increased responsibility throughout Trump’s presidency to uphold individual rights and civil liberties. Currently, multiple states are attempting to pass anti-abortion state legislation and national lawmakers are currently crafting anti-abortion policy.  Proposed state bills include bills to ban abortion after 20 weeks of fertilization and bills that mandate funeral requirements for fetal remains.  Louisiana has passed both of these state bills.  There are also a number of national bills lawmakers are currently considering. One proposed bill (H.R. 354) calls for the defunding of Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood affiliates.  Another proposed bill (H.R. 7) would permanently prevent people who get health insurance through Medicaid, the Indiana Health Services, the U.S. military, and the Peace Corps from getting abortion care covered. Many anti-abortion policies, including seven passed in Louisiana last year, wind up in court challenges which could go all the way to the Supreme Court-illustrating the importance of Trump’s Supreme Court choices. As these kinds of cases come to the Supreme Court, Gorsuch is not likely to support reproductive rights.

Democratic senators will undoubtedly ask Gorsuch his views on abortion during the upcoming confirmation hearings.  We need to insist that Gorsuch provide them with complete, straightforward answers. 

by Allison Buffet

Allison Buffett is from Chicago, Illinois. She is currently a junior at Tulane University pursuing a degree in Political Science with a coordinate major in Social Policy and Practice and a minor in Public Health. Her research interests focus around healthcare policy. She believes thoughtful healthcare legislation has the potential to improve women’s access to affordable, high quality, and crucial healthcare services. She is looking forward to advancing her healthcare policy knowledge as a Policy Intern at Lift Louisiana. She is excited to work towards Lift Louisiana’s mission of empowering women to shape the course of their own lives by having access to reproductive health information and care. ​


Our Perspective contributions are written by the interns from Tulane University working with Lift Louisiana to advance reproductive health, rights and justice.

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What Physicians for Reproductive Health say about Gorsuch nomination

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