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Trump-Pence Administration Continues to Reshape Federal Judiciary with Extreme Lifetime Judicial Appointments

WASHINGTON D.C. - Today, the U.S. Senate  confirmed Kyle Duncan for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Duncan has a long record of actively working against women’s health and rights, including fighting against access to birth control and defending laws designed to inhibit women’s access to their constitutional right to abortion. His record has earned him the support of anti-abortion groups such as Americans United for Life, Susan B. Anthony List, Concerned Women for America, and the Family Research Council. Duncan also represented North Carolina in his defense of a photo ID law that has been described as disenfranchising Black voters “with almost surgical precision.” He has also been a vocal advocate against same-sex marriage.

Statement from Dana Singiser, Vice President for Government Relations and Public Policy, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:

Kyle Duncan is unfit for a lifetime appointment to the Fifth Circuit.  He has dismissed the importance of birth control, defended extreme anti-abortion laws that imposed medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers, and advocated for laws that deprive LGBTQ people of their rights. The idea that Duncan would be impartial and respect legal precedent that protects people’s rights and access to care is absurd. President Trump is radically remaking an entire branch of government. These lifetime appointments are being filled with people who have a track record of working against women’s health and rights. 

There are currently 149 federal judicial vacancies, and each one is a lifetime appointment. In recent months, Senate leadership has subverted the Senate’s rules and well-established procedure to jam President Trump’s nominees through. To do that, committee leaders changed the long-standing rule of requiring receipt of support of a nominee, via a “blue slip,” by each home-state senator. Even Duncan’s home-state senator, Sen. John Kennedy, did not return a “blue slip” for Duncan. This should have precluded Duncan’s nomination from moving forward.  

Background: Duncan’s long history of working to restrict women’s health and rights:

Duncan vigorously fought against the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Duncan has even gone so far as to dismiss the importance of access to contraception.  

Duncan served as general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a group that has fought against advancements for women's reproductive rights under the banner of “religious freedom.” Duncan was lead counsel in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, in which the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision that for-profit corporations can have religious beliefs and can deny contraceptive coverage as part of their employer-sponsored health insurance plans when contraception conflicts with those beliefs.

Duncan co-authored an amicus brief in Zubik v. Burwell, another case that challenged the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, arguing that the government accommodation for religious institutions in regards to contraception was not enough. Duncan stated, “[t]he so-called ‘accommodation’ — no less than the original Mandate — continues to coerce” objectors into “complicity with wrongdoing."

As part of his long history of defending anti-abortion laws, Duncan defended a Texas law in 1999 that targeted medical offices providing 300 or more abortion procedures per year, requiring them to become licensed as abortion facilities and comply with onerous and medically unnecessary regulations. He argued that the anti-abortion law “made abortions safer by regulating high-volume clinics and increasing the criminal liability of doctors who perform abortions without a license.” These are common tactics used by anti-abortion advocates to perpetuate the myth that an abortion is an unsafe procedure, while their true goal is to make abortion harder to access.  

 

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.