One of the judicial nominees the Senate will vote on next week is William Pryor, the former Attorney General of Alabama who is now sitting temporarily on the 11th Circuit due to a dubious recess appointment. A useful way to think about Judge Pryor’s record is to imagine what kind of America we would live in if he had his way.
Judge Pryor has made it clear that he disagrees with Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling which established a woman’s right to choose a legal abortion—indeed, he has even indicated that he opposes abortion even in cases or rape or incest. So, Pryor’s America would be one in which most women could not get an abortion legally.
Pryor’s America would also have much weaker protections against sex discrimination than we have now. When the Supreme Court ruled that the state-run Virginia Military Institute could not exclude women based on stereotypes about how women learn, Pryor called the decision “political correctness,” suggesting that he thinks that kind of discrimination is perfectly acceptable under our Constitution.
Judge Pryor has also been highly active in the “federalism” or “states’ rights” movement. He has argued in briefs to the Supreme Court that citizens should not be able to sue their states for damages for violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act or the Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act (designed to protect women from stalkers)—and in both cases the Supreme Court disagreed. In Pryor’s America, then, Congress could not pass strong laws protecting all women and minorities, the disabled, and the elderly from discrimination and violence.
Judge Pryor has also said that he is absolutely opposed to affirmative action—so in Pryor’s America, governments, schools, and employers would not be able to take affirmative steps to increase diversity in their workplaces.
The fundamental question is: Do we want judges on our federal appeals courts whose views of our country’s laws and Constitution are so different from those of most Americans? You will not be shocked to learn that we think the answer is a resounding no.