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Anti-Women Judicial Nominee Does Little To Appease Critics In Senate Committee Hearing

Michael McConnell consistently tried to distance himself from his anti-women’s rights and anti-civil rights writings during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday on his nomination to a lifetime seat on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. A University of Utah law professor who has written extensively about his opposition to a woman’s right to choose, McConnell attempted to convince the committee that he would follow the legal precedent outlined in Roe v. Wade despite the fact that his writings indicate otherwise.

Several Democratic members of the committee, the Feminist Majority and other women’s rights, civil rights and progressive groups were not convinced. “McConnell has openly stated that he believes that Roe v. Wade is unconstitutional. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee must continue to send President Bush the message that they will not approve judges that will take away women’s rights and roll the clock backwards according to a right-wing ideology,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) questioned McConnell about writings in which he praised a judge for disregarding the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE). After listening to Schumer’s explanation that the law was enacted in response to a tactic in which abortion opponents shut down clinics with their nonviolent protests (anti-abortion extremists also often use violence to accomplish the same goal), McConnell stated that Schumer had made “powerful points he had not considered when he wrote the article,” according to the New York Times.

McConnell also backtracked on a statement he had made criticizing a Supreme Court decision to repeal Bob Jones University’s tax-exempt status for racially discriminatory policies. Yesterday, he noted that the federal government should in fact penalize institutions for racial discrimination, the Times reported.

Despite his appalling record on a variety of issues, some Democrats have indicated that they could approve McConnell’s nomination in exchange for a deal from the White House to nominate more moderate judges, according to Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report. McConnell only needs one Democratic vote in order for his nomination to move to the full Senate for consideration.

McConnell is the third in a string of right-wing activists nominated to lifelong federal bench positions by President Bush. Both Priscilla Owen and Charles Pickering, nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, were rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee for their propensity to trumpet their own right-wing ideologies over the law. If confirmed by the Senate, McConnell would become a lifetime appointee to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals – the court of last resort for Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming.

Media Resources: New York Times 9/19/02; Associated Press 9/18/02; Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report 9/19/02; 9/8/02

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