Julie Rikelman was questioned by Republican senators on September 21 at her confirmation hearing before Senate Judiciary Committee. They wanted to know if she would follow the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs ruling. While she stated that she would comply with the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs ruling in the affirmative and that she would do so as she did all Supreme Court precedents; not all senators were convinced. Rikelman, a career abortion advocate, was involved in the Roe v. Wade case.
President Joe Biden appointed Julie Rikelman to the U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit in Boston on August 1, 2022. Rikelman would succeed Judge Sandra Lea Lynch if she is confirmed to the position for a lifetime.
“Warrior for Reproductive Rights”
Rikelman was the senior litigation director at the Center for Reproductive Rights (CPR), an anti-abortion advocacy group. He suggested that abortion made it possible for women to enjoy academic, financial, and professional benefits in a December 2021 Salon interview.
She claimed that abortion is a right and that she was working to ensure that women’s voices were heard in courtrooms.
Rikelman, who was hailed by her alma mater as a “warrior of reproductive rights” and ranked second in InStyle’s 2022 “The Badass 50”, was the lead litigator for plaintiff June Medical Services LLC. Russo, a 2020 Supreme Court case in which the court ruled in favor of her client. The high court had upheld a Louisiana law that required abortion clinic doctors to be admitted to hospitals.
Rikelman, who was informed by the Harvard Gazette of the decision, said that it was “really important for people to stay vigilant because we know the opposition is relentless,” and that Louisiana laws must be “permanently block.”
Before the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs ruling she advocated “expanding abortion access” and stated that the status quo was not satisfactory. She also said that she was determined to fight against abortion bans.
Advocate or judge
Rikelman stated Wednesday that she would “apply Dobbs loyally”, separating her life of abortion advocacy and her potential work as a federal judge.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked about those who were previously witnesses before Congress regarding these centers. She said, “Is your testimony that these people lie under oath…that these centers are all fake?”
Rikelman refused to discuss her views on abortion and reiterated her commitment to keeping her role as an advocate separate from her potential role as a judge.
Chuck Grassley (Republican from Iowa) was also concerned about Rikelman’s opposition to pregnancy resource centers. He asked her if she would withdraw herself from cases in which they are involved.
Rikelman replied, “I will carefully review the recusal statute, consider all of the facts, consult with my chief Judge, and do absolutely everything the code of traditional conduct requires.”
Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, pointed out that Rikelman may have difficulty separating her passion for abortion from the duties of her post. He said that Rikelman’s support for abortion legalization, even in the ninth trimester, was well out of the mainstream.
Cruz mentioned Rikelman’s appointment as part of President Joe Biden’s larger effort to “fundamentally transform our judiciary.” He stated, “Biden decided with the complicity of Senate Democrats to abandon fair and impartial judges who follow the law and to replace them with partisan zealots.”
Rikelman was informed by Cruz that Cruz’s career is “precisely this type”, having spent most of her professional life advocating for abortion.
Senator Mike Lee (Republican from Utah) mentioned Rikelman’s statement in which she stated that Dobbs would have a “swift” and “severe” impact. She also said that it was “the greatest public health crisis we’ve ever faced in decades.”
“In a world where more babies are born, and they’re being born alive than aborted, would you consider that a public health emergency?” Lee asked this question before referring to the COVID-19 epidemic and AIDS epidemic, which might have also qualified for the top spot.
Rikelman replied that her comments were part of an advocacy report and focused on “the implications of forcing women into giving birth against their will” rather than the implications for women who wish to have children.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) Rikelman was questioned about her approach to violent crimes. She responded with a number of relevant questions, especially considering the rising murder rates “not seen since the 1990s”.
Cotton suggested that a lot of the rise in violent crime could be attributed to “left-wing pro-criminal policy” such as those Rikelman advocated in her 2007 Baylor Law Review article. Rikelman “argued that it was against the Constitution for law enforcement DNA samples taken from convicted criminals.” Cotton responded to her questions by suggesting that Rikelman had misrepresented the article before them.