Two topics not usually discussed in the same conversation — but they should be.
Many times we have heard nominees for the federal bench say things like their personal views will be checked at the door of the courthouse and that they will not legislate from the bench.
We’re hearing it again from a judicial nominee that President Bush is now trying for the second time to get confirmed before he and Laura have to start packing to move back to Texas.
Whether or not we can believe that assertion is another question.
Bush has nominated Wyoming attorney Richard Honaker to sit on the federal circuit court in Wyoming. In case you’re not familiar, suffice it to say that Honaker, who is currently an attorney in private practice and a former Wyoming legislator, is an opponent of abortion in all but the most extreme circumstances and apparently believes that it’s OK for his religious views to inform his judicial opinions.
According to NOW’s website:
Honaker is a staunch anti-choice advocate who has not only repeatedly stated his view that legal abortion is the equivalent of murder, but has spent significant portions of his career fighting to deny women access to safe, legal reproductive-health services. For example, while serving in the Wyoming House of Representatives, Honaker put his extremist belief that “abortion kills innocent children” into action by twice pushing for legislation that would place a near-total ban on abortion services in the state.
A proposed Wyoming anti-abortion law that Honaker has introduced in his home state more than once would make exceptions only for victims of rape and incest only if reported within five days and for the safety of the mother’s life. According to one Wyoming newspaper, Honaker’s proposed bill would NOT make an exception for the mother’s health, something that Honaker tried pretty unsuccessfully to parse at his recent Senate hearing:
In a second round of questions, [California Senator Dianne] Feinstein noted that [Honaker's] bill included an exemption for the life of the mother but not her health, and said both are required. Honaker responded that in his personal opinion, “health” has not been defined specifically enough.”
Now, I don’t have a problem with anyone’s personal views on abortion. Talk about one of the most personal political issues out there. But since the law of land still is that a woman has a constitutionally protected right to an abortion under many circumstances, I’ve got a little problem with judicial nominees who won’t uphold that and who question whether there are legitimate health reasons that a woman might need one.
I’ve got the same problem with presidential candidates who think they can impose their own personal views on privacy issues by trying to stack the courts with judges and attorneys whose known personal views don’t line up with the privacy protections we legally have.
Will you bring the Federal judiciary into balance by appointing judges who will uphold reproductive rights as human and civil rights under which women are entitled to equal protection? While I’m at it, I’ll ask similar questions of candidates for Congress and state offices.
Honaker’s personal views could well impact his rulings on more than just any abortion cases that might come before him. In a recent Mother Jones article by Stephanie Mencimer, a representative for The Alliance for Justice questioned how Honaker might rule on other privacy issues in light of Honaker’s reported belief that American laws should reflect Christianity:
“What if someone is dismissed from their job for being gay? What if someone sues because their health insurance doesn’t cover contraception?” … Those are exactly the sorts of cases that might come before Honaker … and [Simon Heller of The Alliance of Justice] thinks Honaker’s religious views would make it impossible for him to give such people a fair hearing, whether or not he was a plaintiff lawyer. “It’s not just about abortion.”
It’s fair to say that no one considers the issue of abortion lightly, least of all the women who have to face that choice. But in America, women still do legally have a choice. One way to make sure that our views on women’s reproductive health, whatever they are, are represented is for voters to scrutinize the presidential candidates on the types of judges they will name to the bench.
Judicial appointments are forever. And however we feel about a presidential candidate’s positions on health care, education or the war, all those things can and will be impacted by the judges who have to rule on cases on those subjects — judges and justices who are appointed for life and can’t be removed from the bench.
So when you’re deciding who to vote for in the presidential election this year, think about the types of judges you want to see appointed to the bench. Those judges often having a much greater impact on the laws and policies of this country than the presidents who appoint them.
Cross-posted from BlogHer where PunditMom is a Contributing Editor for Politics & News.