U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch faced scrutiny Monday from Senate Democrats over his stances on several healthcare issues including contraception access and abortion rights.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday began the projected three-day confirmation hearing for Gorsuch to join the high court. Gorsuch was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the year-long vacancy created by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia's death in February 2016.
While Republicans touted Gorsuch's judicial restraint and strict adherence to the law, Democrats homed in on his perceived track record of favoring businesses over individual rights, including his ruling that limited the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate.
As a judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch authored two opinions tamping down the controversial healthcare provision, which required employer-sponsored health plans to cover contraception access. One of those opinions--Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius--ruled that company owners' religious beliefs superseded the right of workers to access contraception. That decision was later upheld 5-4 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Gorsuch's opinion in that case expanded corporate rights “at the expense of the voices and choices of the American people” and he found the legal theories Gorsuch used in the opinion “painful.”
“Our founders never believed that corporations were endowed with certain unalienable rights,” Durbin said.
Other Democrats focused on other individual rights they perceived could be in jeopardy if justices nominated by Republican presidents regain their 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court. Trump repeatedly promised during the presidential campaign that he would nominate a judge to the high court bench who would overturn Roe v. Wade and cut back abortion rights.
Although Gorsuch has not issued an opinion on abortion rights, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said his writings raise questions on whether he would overturn the 44-year-old Supreme Court precedent and 14 subsequent decisions upholding that ruling.
“(These cases) are about a woman's fundamental and constitutional rights,” Feinstein said during her opening statement. “Roe ensured that women and their doctors will decide what's best for their care. Not politicians.”
Gorsuch did not comment on the Democrats' criticisms and concerns during his opening statement Monday afternoon. Instead, he highlighted his family's humble, hardworking roots and his personal commitment to judicial independence.
The fourth-generation Coloradoan emphasized that a good judge will not politically agree with every decision he or she makes, as it is a judge's duty to interpret the law as it stands.
“A good judge can promise no more than that, and a good judge should guarantee no less,” he said.
Gorsuch has received bipartisan support from lawmakers and attorneys including President Barack Obama's former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal.