Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch was once vaunted as a fair, intelligent choice. That veneer is beginning to crack, thanks in part to the revelation that Gorsuch made sexist comments while teaching a law school class. It’s all part of the same trend in the Trump administration: contempt for women.
Conservatives and liberals alike have long pointed to Donald Trump’s apparent lack of values. He was pro-choice before becoming “pro-life.” He promised to “drain the swamp,” then ignored his staff’s ethical lapses. His views on gun control, the Iraq War, health care, and taxes have been nearly impossible to pin down. The only thing that seems consistent is Trump’s contempt for women. He picked a vice president who thinks women shouldn’t work outside the home. His administration backs this notion. Trump has hired significantly fewer women than previous administrations. He’s also picked a Supreme Court nominee who cannot be fair and unbiased about issues affecting women.
Consider how Neil Gorsuch’s views on women could color his rulings on choice and other issues that affect 51% of the population. Gorsuch has of course denied the statements, probably because he realizes they call into question his integrity.
Women Take Unfair Advantage of Maternity Leave
According to a letter from a former student, as well as a complaint that student filed with the school, Gorsuch made troubling comments about women and maternity leave. The Supreme Court nominee reportedly asserted that women take unfair advantage of maternity leave, getting hired and then unfairly paid after having a baby.
Neil Gorsuch, the letter alleges, asked students to raise their hands if they knew a woman who had used maternity leave to be paid after having a baby, only to leave immediately after. When no students raised their hands, Gorsuch goaded them, “Come on, guys. All of your hands should be up. Many women do this.”
Pregnancy Discrimination is Legal
Gorsuch also allegedly told students that companies, particularly law firms, should ask female interviewees about family plans. This, the student alleges, is so that those companies can discriminate against women who plan to become pregnant. Pregnancy discrimination is illegal. It’s illegal to ask a woman if she is pregnant or plans to become so with the intent of discriminating against her.
Gorsuch: Pro-Birth, Not Pro-Life
Gorsuch has referred to abortion as “the death of a person,” and made his anti-choice views no secret. In a legal context where pregnancy discrimination is legal and women who get pregnant are seen as master manipulators, it’s hard to embrace Gorsuch’s ideology as pro-life. Gorsuch, like many other conservatives, is pro-birth. His views suggest he has little concern for women and their babies after birth.
The Future With Gorsuch as a Justice?
So what does this all mean for women, and specifically for pro-choice women? Nothing good. If Gorsuch doesn’t believe pregnancy discrimination should be illegal, he’s unlikely to rule in victims’ favor. He’s even less likely to recognize the burden that an unwanted pregnancy can pose.
Lest there be any doubt, Gorsuch refused to answer direct questions about pregnancy discrimination during this week’s senate hearings. It seems clear that his nomination will be a step back for women, and several giant leaps back for reproductive choice.