Pro-Choice GOP Senators Keep Voting For Trump's Anti-Abortion Judges

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Jennifer Bendery
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President Trump has put forward some incredibly anti-abortion judicial nominees. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (left) and Susan Collins (right), who support women's reproductive rights, have voted to confirm all of them.
President Trump has put forward some incredibly anti-abortion judicial nominees. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (left) and Susan Collins (right), who support women's reproductive rights, have voted to confirm all of them.

WASHINGTON ― The Senate voted Tuesday to confirm one of PresidentDonald Trump’s judicial nominees, Kyle Duncan, a lawyer who built his career on fighting abortion rights, LGBTQ rights and voting rights.

Every Republican voted to confirm Duncan, 45, to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. One Democrat voted for him, Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.).

There’s nothing particularly surprising about Republicans lining up behind a Republican president’s court pick. In fact, not a single GOP senator has voted against any of Trump’s judicial nominees, aside fromone no votecast by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).

But what’s puzzling is that Republican senators who identify as pro-choice or pro-LGBTQ rights keep voting to confirm lifetime judges poised to chip away at those rights ― and the interest groups that praise these senators for their views seem to be ignoring their contrary votes on judges, whose decisions will affect generations of people.

Take Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Both are pro-choice; Murkowski is a member of several GOP organizations that support abortion rights, including the Republican Majority for Choice, and Collins justwon a big award from Planned Parenthood.

“Throughout my service in the Senate, I have been a strong proponent of measures to promote and protect women’s health and expand all Americans’ access to quality health care,” Collins said in November when she received her award.

And yet, both just voted to confirm Duncan, wholed the legal fightagainst the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide insurance coverage for contraceptives. He also wrote a brief in opposition to a Washington state law that required pharmacies to stock birth control, and co-authored a brief supporting Texas’ extreme restrictions on abortion that the U.S. Supreme Court later struck down as unconstitutional.

Collins and Murkowski sit with Trump as he talks about health care.
Collins and Murkowski sit with Trump as he talks about health care.

They voted in July to confirm 53-year-old John Bush as a U.S. circuit judge. He had compared abortion to slaveryand referred to them as the “two greatest tragedies in our country.”

They voted in October to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, then 45, to the 7th Circuit. She had suggested Roe v. Wade wasan “erroneous decision”and called the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit “an assault on religious liberty.”

They voted in August to confirm Kevin Newsom, then 44, to the 11th Circuit. He had equated the rationaleof Roe v. Wade to Dred Scott v. Sandford, the 1857 Supreme Court decision upholding slavery.

They voted in December to confirm Leonard Steven Grasz, 56, as a U.S. circuit judge. He had comparedthe “personhood” of fetusesto the civil rights of Native Americans and African-Americans. He’d also argued that lower courts should be able to overrule Supreme Court decisions on abortion rightsbecause “abortion jurisprudence is, to a significant extent, a word game.”

Ahead of Duncan’s vote, Planned Parenthood tweeted for days urging senators to vote no and highlighting how awful he would be for women’s reproductive rights. After he was confirmed, the groupthanked Democratsfor speaking out against Duncan, but said nothing about its GOP allies who voted yes.

Aides to Collins and Murkowski did not respond to requests for comment on how they square their pro-choice position with their votes for Trump’s judges.

Planned Parenthood did not respond to a request for comment.

What happened to being an LGBTQ ally?

It’s not just hypocrisy on abortion rights. Collins, Murkowski and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have cast themselves as allies to the LGBTQ community, yet they keep voting to confirm lifetime judges who are rabidly anti-gay.

Collins said in 2014 that she was “proud” to be an ally to the Human Rights Campaign, which endorsed Collinsin her reelection campaign that year. Murkowski announced hersupport for same-sex marriagein 2013, andvoted to repealthe military’s ban on openly gay troops in 2010, saying, “I’ve heard from Alaskans across the state who believe it’s time to end this discriminatory policy, and I agree with them.”

Portman, meanwhile, announced hissupport for same-sex marriagein 2013 after his son came out as gay. He followed that byvoting for a billto ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

All three of them voted in December to confirm James Ho as a U.S. circuit judge. Ho had donated thousands of pro bono hours to First Liberty Institute, a conservative legal group that takes up cases opposing LGBTQ rights. Its clients include the owners of Sweet Cakes, an Oregon bakery fined for refusing to serve a lesbian couple, and a newspaper editor fired for writing a post condemning the “LGBTQXYZ crowd and the Gaystapo” for trying to “make their sinful nature right with God.”

James Ho, now a judge on the 5th Circuit, donated thousands of pro bono hours to a conservative legal group that takes up cases opposing LGBTQ rights. Collins, Murkowski and Portman all voted to confirm him.
James Ho, now a judge on the 5th Circuit, donated thousands of pro bono hours to a conservative legal group that takes up cases opposing LGBTQ rights. Collins, Murkowski and Portman all voted to confirm him.

They all voted for Judge Bush, who criticized the State Department for modifying passport application formsto include same-sex parents.

They all voted for Judge Grasz, who, as chief deputy attorney general for Nebraska,opposed the recognition of same-sex marriagescontracted in other states. He also used his role on a city of Omaha committee to push for an amendment to the city charter to allow employers to discriminate against LGBTQ employees by citing religious liberty.

And on Tuesday, they all voted for Duncan, who previouslyfiled a brief on behalf of 15 states opposing nationwide marriage equality and led efforts to keep same-sex marriage bans in Louisiana and Virginia. He also represented the birth mother of three children who refused visitation rights to her former same-sex spouse.

The Human Rights Campaign torched the Senate for confirming Duncan and cast him as one of Trump’s most extreme anti-LGBTQ judicial nominees. But the group didn’t call out any of its supposed GOP allies for voting for him.

“In a string of anti-equality nominees from the Trump-Pence administration, Kyle Duncan stands out for his long career fighting to limit the legal protections for LGBTQ Americans,” David Stacy, HRC’s government affairs director, said in a statement. “It is unconscionable that the Senate has rubber stamped yet another unfit and extreme nominee to a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.”

Aides to Collins, Murkowski and Portman did not respond to requests for comment on how they square their support for LGBTQ rights with their votes for Trump’s judges.

The Human Rights Campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.