President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, a judge from the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, on Monday night to fill the seat on the Supreme Court bench vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016. Gorsuch, whom the Senate confirmed to that post unanimously in 2006, has openly professed his admiration for Scalia — the nominee described the late jurist as “a lion of the law” in his acceptance remarks on Monday — and is widely seen, The New York Times notes, as a judge who would hue toward the example the late Scalia, a fierce conservative, set.
In actuality, there’s very little in Gorsuch’s judicial record that could be used as a bellwether for how he might approach a challenge to Roe v. Wade. Some observers are looking for clues by examining his record on another similarly thorny issue: assisted suicide. The same year Gorsuch was confirmed to his current post, he also authored a book titled The Future of Assisted Suicide, The Washington Post reports. “All human beings are intrinsically valuable,” Gorsuch wrote in the book, “and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”
For those seeking clues as to his thinking on abortion, that passage delivers, as does one that follows it: “We seek to protect and preserve life for life’s own sake in everything from our most fundamental laws of homicide to our road traffic regulations to our largest governmental programs for health and social security.” Ultimately, as The Washington Post notes, Gorsuch concluded that he is against assisted suicide, but only after a deeply thoughtful exploration of it.
Still, his position on assisted suicide sets off alarm bells among pro-choice advocates.
“Neil Gorsuch has all the makings of an extreme anti-abortion justice,” David S. Cohen, a Drexel University law professor who sits on the board of the Abortion Care Network, told The Guardian. “He is devoted to originalism, has decried using the courts for social change, and has protected the rights of religious Christians to impose their views on everyone else,” Cohen added. “Whether he will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade is unknown, but the signs don’t point in the right direction.”
And abortions rights groups point out his ruling on the controversial Hobby Lobby case, in which he ruled that gender equality wasn’t a compelling factor in the Affordable Care Act, thereby absolving certain companies from covering birth control for female employees. The Center for Reproductive Rights issued a statement criticizing Gorsuch over that case.
Gorsuch, at the age of 49, is the youngest Supreme Court nominee in a quarter century, and, if confirmed to the bench, could remain there for decades, ultimately giving him great influence over how the laws of the land are shaped for a generation to come, or more. In his remarks on Monday evening, Gorsuch pledged, “I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great country.”