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Instead of focusing on relieving the COVID-19 pandemic that is disproportionately hurting Black communities due to economic inequality and structural racism, today Senate leadership will vote to confirm Justin Walker to the D.C. Circuit Court, even though he has strongly opposed the Affordable Care Act

Senate has confirmed almost 200 federal judges during the Trump administration

WASHINGTON — As the nation grapples with the dual public health crises of systemic racism and the COVID-19 pandemic, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republican leadership continue to ignore the needs of their constituents and instead push forward and confirm judges who oppose health care access. That includes today’s floor vote on Justin Walker, who is nominated for a seat on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which is not even available until September. 

Walker’s record demonstrates a clear hostility to basic health care access and coverage, including reproductive health care. He has strongly opposed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which protects people with COVID-19 from losing health coverage, facing higher premiums, or paying higher out-of-pocket costs. Amid a global pandemic, coverage through the ACA is especially critical for the communities being hit hardest by the virus. The health care system has always failed communities of color, but because of the ACA’s requirement of preventive health care services without cost sharing, 15 million Black and 17 million Latinx people can access affordable health care.

State-sanctioned violence and systemic racism compound the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic for Black people — this access is more important than ever. Judges can set precedents that affect generations. It is critical that the Senate confirm only those federal judges who are fit to serve all people. 

Statement from Anisha Singh, director, judiciary and democracy affairs, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“While the nation’s cases of COVID-19 top two million and people take to the streets to protest the killings of Black people by police, Senate leadership continues to prioritize remaking the federal judiciary with unfit judges. People need urgent action from their elected officials — they are being let down every day the Senate does not respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and meaningfully address the systemic racism that allows for continued violence against Black people. It is not the time to play political games with people’s lives, or confirm a nominee like Justin Walker, who has called parts of the ACA ‘catastrophic,’ to a lifetime position on a federal court. Judges like Walker could rule on cases dealing with civil rights and reproductive rights for decades to come. The Senate must halt any votes on Justin Walker or any other lifetime nominees and put the needs of the country first.”

Additional background on Walker:

  • Opponents of safe, legal abortion have praised and endorsed Walker for being a “traditionalist” and “constitutionalist,” which means they believe Walker will not uphold the right to abortion.

  • Walker praised then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh for creating a “roadmap” for other judges to use to invalidate the ACA. Walker defended Justice Kavanaugh by saying he would bring “an end to affirmative action, an end to successful litigation about religious displays and prayers, an end to bans on semiautomatic rifles, and an end to almost all judicial restrictions on abortion.”

  • Walker also praised Kavanaugh as a “warrior for religious liberty” and applauded Kavanaugh’s dissent in Priests for Life v. HHS, a case challenging the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement, as an example of “defending religious liberty.”

  • Walker called the Supreme Court decision in NFIB v. Sebelius — the case that upheld the ACA’s individual mandate — “indefensible” and “catastrophic.”

    • He also said during his investiture: “Although we are winning we have not won. Although we celebrate today, we cannot take for granted tomorrow — or we will lose our courts and our country to critics who call us terrifying and who describe us as deplorable.”

  • Disturbingly, Walker views his judgeship as a means to “wage war” to advance his judicial philosophy and “win” against “opponents,” demonstrating an us-versus-them mentality.

The Trump administration and Senate Republican leadership continue to pack the courts with almost 200 judges appointed. They are filling lifetime appointments with unfit and unqualified people whose records suggest they will not protect individuals against the administration’s attacks on people’s bodies, health, and rights. 

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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.