On Wednesday, Wendy Vitter, President Donald Trump’s nominee for a district court in eastern Louisiana, will appear before the Senate for her confirmation hearing. Vitter has drawn attention because of her anti-abortion advocacy record — and for failing to disclose that history on her Senate questionnaire, a form that nominees must fill as part of the confirmation process.
Vitter is best remembered as the wife of former Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, who was involved in the 2007 D.C. Madam sex scandal, but she has a longstanding legal career and has served as the general counsel to the Archdiocese of New Orleans since 2012. In January, she was nominated by Trump to a federal trial judgeship.
In her questionnaire, Vitter didn't disclose several anti-choice speeches and panels in which she participated.
One of them took place in 2013, when she led a panel called "Abortion Hurts Women's Health." During her appearance, Vitter endorsed the views of fellow panelist and anti-abortion activist Angela Lanfranchi, who told attendees that abortion increases women’s risk for breast cancer, which is false. (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has debunked this claim.) Lanfranchi's brochure also said that women who use the birth control pill can develop breast, cervical, or liver cancers, and can potentially suffer a "violent death" because they're more likely to cheat on their partners. There's no existing scientific research supporting any of those claims, but Vitter encouraged attendants to check out the brochure anyway.
"Go to Dr. Angela’s website, Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, download it, and at your next physical you walk into your pro-life doctor and say, ‘Have you thought about putting these facts or this brochure in your waiting room?'" she said. "Each one of you can be the pro-life advocate to take the next step."
Vitter also failed to disclose a speech she gave in May 2013, where she participated in a rally opposing the construction of a Planned Parenthood clinic in New Orleans.
"Planned Parenthood says they promote women’s health," Vitter said, according to the Clarion Herald. "It is the saddest of ironies that they kill over 150,000 females a year."
There's no basis for the latter claim. And Planned Parenthood does more than just provide abortions: That care constitutes only 3% of the services offered by the organisation, according to its latest annual report. The majority of their work includes things like birth control and STI testing and treatment.
Her extreme views have worried reproductive rights advocates, since federal courts are the first line of defence when groups fight anti-choice legislation.
"Vitter’s record of opposing women’s health and rights is far outside the mainstream," Dana Singiser, vice president of Public Policy and Government Affairs for Planned Parenthood, said in a statement to Refinery29. She added, "By promoting fake science and misinformation as fact, Wendy Vitter has proven that she doesn’t have the judgment needed for a lifetime seat on the federal bench."
"The constitutional right to safe and legal abortion has been reaffirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court time and time again. It is a part of the fabric of American jurisprudence. Most recently, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court relied on that long standing precedent to hold that medically unnecessary yet burdensome restrictions on abortion access are unconstitutional," reads the letter, provided to Refinery29.
It continues, "To be qualified for a lifetime position on the federal bench, a nominee must be fair-minded and committed to defending our core constitutional protections, including reproductive freedom. Any nominee willing to place politics or personal ideology above respect for the rule of law poses a grave danger to the health and safety of women and to the stability of American democracy."
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