Anti-Choice Activists Demand Even Greater Ideological Purity In Trump’s SCOTUS Shortlist

Andrew Schlafly, a son of the late Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, has been circulating an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump urging him to remove from his stated Supreme Court shortlist a number of potential justices who he says “lack a pro-life record.”

The letter, which targets potential Trump picks Diane Sykes, Steven Colloton, Raymond Kethledge, Neil Gorsuch, Allison Eid and Joan Larsen, is signed by a number of anti-abortion activists including Faith 2 Action’s Janet Porter (author and chief proponent of Ohio’s recently passed “heartbeat” bill), Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman, and John Eidsmoe, who works for Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law.

Schlafly writes:

Attempts to nominate a “stealth” candidate lacking in a record on abortion was the failed approach of the past, and would be inconsistent with the transparency of your incoming Administration. Despite that, at least a half-dozen of the candidates on the list lack a pro-life record. We urge you not to consider these candidates lacking a pro-life record for the position of Justice Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. Several of these judges on the list have even written or spoken in ways that are at odds with the pro-life position.

Candidates who lack a pro-life record include, for example, Judges Diane Sykes, Steven Colloton, Raymond Kethledge, and Neil Gorsuch, and Justices Allison Eid and Joan Larsen. In addition, each of these judges has either ruled against the pro-life position or has otherwise shown an unwillingness to be publicly pro-life. … That disqualifies them from filling Justice Scalia’s seat, particularly in light of how better candidates are available to be nominated.

Needless to say, some in the conservative legal establishment are not happy with this preemptive attack from Schlafly and his allies. After all, Trump gave conservative legal activists an unprecedented gift when he promised to pick his Supreme Court nominees off two short lists drawn up with the guidance of the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.

Ed Whelan, a leading voice in the conservative judicial wars, has fired off a series of National Review blog posts accusing Schlafly of “incompetent smears” against the potential nominees and charging that he is undermining a list that was praised by his mother. “Any person or group that signs his letter forfeits any claim to being taken seriously,” Whelan writes. Schlafly, Whelan says, “invites suspicion that he wants judges to indulge pro-life values to misread the law in order to reach pro-life results.”

Trump’s repeated promises to nominate “pro-life” justices to the bench who will “automatically” reverse Roe v. Wade were a large part of what got the anti-abortion movement on his side in the presidential election. This is only the first sign that there might be some debate in the ranks about how to ensure that “pro-life” ideological purity is properly enforced.