Harris Questions Judicial Nominee on History Advocating Against Women’s Healthcare
WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris pressed Wendy Vitter, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana nominee, on her extensive record of advocacy against women’s healthcare. Harris noted Vitter moderated a panel in 2013 titled “Abortion Hurts Women’s Health” in which Vitter suggested attendees discuss with their physician a brochure claiming oral contraception leads to “more infidelity and adultery.”
“Do you think common sense would dictate that that’s just not accurate?,” Harris asked, in reference to the brochure titled “The Pill Kills.”
“As I mentioned, I had never heard those views. They were surprising to me, too. And I thought it was best that the participants take that brochure and speak to their own health care professional because I was there just to facilitate a discussion,” Vitter responded.
Harris continued, “Having heard those views, do you think it is a reasonable point that she’s making?” Vitter admitted, “No Senator, I do not.”
Harris also pressed Vitter on whether her personal views against a woman’s right to full reproductive health care choices would influence her rulings on the court, in light of previous statements by President Trump saying he would appoint pro-life judges.
Full transcript of Harris’ questioning below:
HARRIS: Ms. Vitter, on a panel that you moderated, Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, she prompted her brochure, “The Pill Kills”, which suggests that women who take the pill are more likely to have extra-marital affairs and that their relationships “understandably lead to violence.” You praised her work and encouraged the audience to bring it to their doctors’ offices. Do you believe that birth control pills cause women to have extra-marital affairs?
VITTER: Senator, I was a moderator of that panel and trying to facilitate a discussion. I was not aware of what the speakers were going to speak about beforehand and no, I had never heard those views before. What I was encourage-
HARRIS: You had not heard those views that she expressed during the panel?
VITTER: That is correct, Senator. I had not heard those views expressed before, that is correct. And I have – no, I had not. And what I was encouraging through what I said to the participants in action items at the conclusion of the panel was that they take that brochure to their own health care professional, to their doctor, and have a discussion with their doctor about it because I thought their doctor would be in the best position to advise them because I certainly had no background.
HARRIS: Do you believe that there was any reason, meaning common sense, or that her comments are based on reason and that therefore they should be shared with doctors’ offices? The idea - do you believe that women being on birth control cause them to have extra-marital affairs?
VITTER: Senator, I had no background to-
HARRIS: To know that or not, is that your point?
VITTER: No, Senator. My background was-
HARRIS: Do you think common sense would dictate that that’s just not accurate?
VITTER: As I mentioned, I had never heard those views. They were surprising to me, too. And I thought it was best that the participants take that brochure and speak to their own health care professional because I was there just to facilitate a discussion, I had never heard those views before.
HARRIS: Having heard those views, do you think it is a reasonable point that she’s making?
VITTER: Which point is that, I’m sorry Senator, which point?
HARRIS: The point of our discussion. That - the suggestion that women being on birth control causes those women to have extra-marital affairs.
VITTER: No Senator, I do not.
HARRIS: Thank you. In a presidential debate with Hillary Clinton on October 16th of 2017, the President stated, “I am pro-life, and I will be appointing pro-life judges.” He said, “If we put another two or perhaps three justices on” what will happen is the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, is essentially what he said. He said “It will happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.” So he made the connection between an individual’s personal beliefs and what they will do when serving on the court, which is why I ask you this question. From your perspective what does it mean to be a pro-life judge?
VITTER: Senator, I can’t comment on what the President meant by that, I have-
HARRIS: What is your belief about what that means?
VITTER: I really don’t know. I cannot comment on that. I have acknowledged that I am pro-life, I recognize that and I take my role very seriously and if I am confirmed and by the senate, I would take my oath very seriously to set aside my religious, or personal, or political views and follow precedent. Roe vs. Wade is precedent, I would be bound by it, and I would follow it. I would be appointed, if I am confirmed to a district court judge - judgeship, I would - it would not be for me to question a Supreme Court precedent, period.
HARRIS: Thank you. At a Rotary Club appearance in 2009 you said “People can make up their own minds about which candidate or party they will support. I’m here to speak proudly for the issues we believe in.” You went on to then say, “We choose to fight for life from conception to the end of life.” In a 2010 speech you asked the audience to be “turtles” and “stick out their necks and fight for the things that matter.” My question is as a judge, are you suggesting you would stick out your neck and fight for pro-life cases? Or how should we interpret your statement as it would be applied to your work if you are confirmed as a judge?
VITTER: Senator, first to put that in context, the comment about sticking out your neck, I was quoting from commencement speeches and that’s a well-known commencement speech and I forgot who said it, I think it might be Dr. Ruth Westheimer who said that to go through life-
HARRIS: Whoever said it, would that apply to your, if you were confirmed, to your work?
VITTER: Senator if I am confirmed, if I am honored to be confirmed, I would make a conscious effort in every matter to set aside my religious, personal or political views and to judge that matter on the facts presented before me and the precedent, Fifth Circuit or Supreme Court precedent. My religious or any other views would have no bearing on the matter before me.
HARRIS: Thank you.
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