Julie Rikelman Can’t Uphold the Constitution When She Doesn’t Know What It Says
This week, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold the hearings for several of the judicial nominees resubmitted by President Biden in early January. Among them is Julie Rikelman, senior director of U.S. Litigation for the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights. While Rikelman, who represented Jackson Women’s Health Organization (the pro-abortion side in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health), may not be a household name, her willingness to obfuscate the truth and disregard the Constitution for the sake of “women’s rights” is a hallmark of those involved in the abortion industry.
A quick look at several of her claims in Dobbs demonstrate her inability to tell fact from fiction — and certainly point toward an incapacity to remain impartial and logical regarding any issue that does not fit the Left’s culture of death agenda. Let’s examine some of her claims in Dobbs.
Claim #1: Chief Justice John Roberts questioned whether a 15-week ban on abortion, as opposed to a ban at the point of viability (generally set at 22-24 weeks gestation), would have a severely negative impact on women in society. Rikelman responded by stating, “People who need abortion after 15 weeks are most often in the most challenging circumstances. …In fact, the data has been very clear over the last 50 years that abortion has been critical to women’s equal participation in society.”
The Truth: In “Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health,” a publication of the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, the authors acknowledge that women seeking late-term abortions do so for the same reasons women receive earlier abortions — “stressful circumstances of unprepared pregnancy, single-motherhood, financial pressure, and relationship discord.” Killing a child is not the solution to challenging circumstances.
Claim #2: Justice Roberts mentioned that the list of countries that do not ban abortion prior to viability includes North Korea and China. Rikelman responded, “First, that’s not correct about international law. In fact, the majority of countries that permit legal access to abortion allow access right up until viability. …So, for example, Canada, Great Britain, and most of Europe allows access to abortion right up until viability…”
The Truth: Prior to the decision in Dobbs, only six countries across the globe allowed abortion throughout the entirety of pregnancy: North Korea, China, Vietnam, South Korea, Canada, and the United States. While Rikelman was correct that Canada and the United Kingdom offer abortion up until viability, she was wrong in characterizing that as typical for Europe. In fact, only two countries in Europe (the United Kingdom and Finland) allow abortion for “broad social reasons” or “socio-economic reasons,” and the majority of European countries protect life in the womb at 12 weeks. Around the world, 100 countries completely outlaw abortion or only allow abortion to protect the life of the mother or in cases of rape, incest, or fetal abnormality. Since the Dobbs decision was handed down, 21 U.S. states and the District of Columbia remain on par with human rights violators like North Korea, China, Vietnam and Canada, and these are certainly not countries the U.S. wants to be “on par” with.
Claim #3: Justice Neil Gorsuch asked Rikelman whether the “undue burden” standard is unworkable. Rikelman replied, “The only thing that’s at issue in this case is the viability line, and the viability line has been enduringly workable. The lower federal courts have applied it consistently and uniformly for 50 years. And the Fifth Circuit here below had no difficulty striking down this law unanimously, 3-0. So it’s been an exceedingly workable standard.”
The Truth: The viability line has shifted from 28 weeks when Roe was decided in 1973 to 22-24 weeks today. Multiple babies have even survived at 21 weeks. Viability is not a standard that can be uniformly applied, because it varies from person to person. Characterizing viability as an “exceedingly workable standard” is either wishful thinking or willful ignorance.
Claim #4: Justice Samuel Alito questioned Rikelman about her defense of the viability line. He asked, “The fetus has an interest in having a life, and that doesn’t change, does it, from the point before viability to the point after viability?” Rikelman ultimately responded, “It [the viability standard] is principled because, in ordering the interests at stake, the Court had to set a line between conception and birth, and it logically looked at the fetus’s ability to survive separately as a legal line because it’s objectively verifiable and doesn’t require the Court to resolve the philosophical issues at stake.”
The Truth: The matter of an unborn child being a human being is not a “philosophical issue”; it is a scientific fact. Furthermore, at no point in time do babies — born or unborn (or countless fully grown adults) — have the ability to “survive separately.” So if Rikelman actually believes that the Court’s line where a person has the ability to “survive separately” is the logical point before which a person can be killed — she is endorsing abortion, infanticide, and the right to kill anyone who cannot survive on their own.
The problem with all of this is that in Dobbs, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution does not contain a right to abortion. The last decade of Rikelman’s career has been spent obscuring the truth in order to defend a version of the Constitution that the Court has emphatically said does not exist. Furthermore, judges must be impartial. It would be impossible for someone who has spent their career lobbying for abortion to actually rule fairly on the issue. As we continue to pray for the Judiciary Committee to only confirm judges who would truly uphold the Constitution, let’s pray that they pass on Julie Rikelman who is willing to manipulate the facts and transform the Constitution into whatever she says it is.
Mary Szoch is the Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council.