Family Research Council

Cornelia Pillard is unfit for the D.C. Circuit Court

By Anna Higgins Director, Center for Human Dignity


Anna Higgins is Director, Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Hill on November 6, 2013.


I have a son. I have the joy and responsibility of nurturing and raising him. I carried him for 9 months, all while balancing work and new motherhood duties, as do countless other women.

Despite the difficulty of pregnancy and delivery, there is no job or feeling that can compare with the enormous task of nurturing and giving birth to another human being. It is a breathtaking privilege to be the one person that can feel and sustain this little one until he makes his appearance in the outside world - an opportunity only a woman can experience.

The development and birth of a baby is a challenging, yet privileged experience. It is a biological reality that women get pregnant and subsequently give birth to a child whom they are entrusted to raise. Yet this privilege is apparently offensive to President Obama's nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Cornelia T. Pillard. In one of her many academic legal treatises, Pillard, who is currently a professor of law at Georgetown, writes that abortion is necessary to "free" women "from historically routine conscription into maternity."

To compare motherhood to "conscription," which implies mandatory, involuntary service or even slavery, is offensive. Pillard, who has two children herself, implies that the "vision" of a woman as a mother somehow is as offensive to the Constitution as is slavery itself.

The institution of slavery was the target of the law Pillard invokes to try to distance women from what she seems to view as the scourge of pregnancy. She notes that anti-abortion laws "prescribe a vision of the woman's role as a mother and caretaker of children in a way that is at odds with equal protection." Oh please, professor: The Supreme Court recognized and has consistently affirmed the government's interest in regulating abortion. Furthermore, the biological differences between a man and a woman are self-evident, have been in existence since the creation of human-kind, and do not, in any way, violate fundamental liberties of women.

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is an important security that should not be diluted by misuse. This amendment guarantees every citizen the right to be treated equally under the law - meaning the law does not favor one citizen over another in a similar situation or circumstance. The Equal Protection Clause, however, in no way was meant to establish the biological equality of every individual (there's a reason some men play in the NBA and others don't), but rather it is in place to ensure an equal application of the law. Suggesting that the equal protection clause be used to demolish biological barriers and natural differences between the sexes is foolhardy.

Misinterpreting the law to inappropriately apply to biological differences between genders, something that has nothing to do with ensuring the God-given rights of every person, only serves to confuse the Equal Protection Clause and weaken its original intent.

Pillard is also a staunch supporter of government mandates on employers to provide health care insurance coverage for contraception and the morning after pill. Pillard asserts that any government failure to cover these drugs for women relegates women to "second class status" as "presumptive breeders."  

Because Pillard manipulates the Constitution to justify her radical and, frankly, absurd beliefs, her ideas are not merely liberal fare, they are dangerous. The fact that Pillard connects her views to constitutional jurisprudence, which she would be responsible for administering if she were confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, should easily defeat her confirmation to that Court. It would be irresponsible for Congress to rubber-stamp the judicial confirmation of anyone who would steamroll the Constitution to advance a radical ideology.

Yes, motherhood can be messy and unpredictable. It changes your life, your schedule, and your priorities - in a good way. A child is an enormous responsibility and an equally enormous joy. Family is the cornerstone of our society and any effort to suppress the family under the guise of "constitutional protection" cannot be tolerated, particularly in one of the most influential courts in the land.

Meet The Author
Anna Higgins Senior Fellow for Life Studies

Anna Higgins is the Senior Fellow for Life Studies, where she focuses on sanctity of life issues, ranging from conception to end of life care. A Florida native, she is a (Full Bio)

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