POLITICS
17/09/2020 8:22 AM AEST | Updated 18/09/2020 10:52 AM AEST

Tammy Duckworth Agreed To Help Confirm 2 Anti-Choice Judges. In The End, She Couldn't.

The Democratic senator had said she’d back the GOP nominees in a bipartisan deal. They turned out to be too awful, and she voted against both.

Joshua Roberts / reuters
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) speaks with an aide in Washington, D.C., March 27, 2019.

WASHINGTON ― Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Wednesday ditched an agreement with the White House and Republicans to support two anti-abortion judicial nominees from her state, instead voting against both.

Duckworth, who has a strong record in support of women’s reproductive rights, was expected to vote for the nominees, David Dugan and Stephen McGlynn, as part of a bipartisan package of President Donald Trump’s court picks. Under Illinois’ selection process for judicial nominees, the president’s party picks candidates for three out of every four district court vacancies, the other party picks the fourth candidate, and both parties agree to a package where all four nominees move forward together.

That was the case here ― except in the end, Duckworth couldn’t stomach Dugan’s and McGlynn’s nominations. Both were Republican picks for lifetime seats on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

“After my own careful review of their qualifications ... I found both have a troubling record on constitutionally-protected reproductive health rights demonstrating extreme bias against women’s rights and science that undermines my confidence that they could serve as the fair and independent judge that every Illinoisan deserves in the courtroom,” Duckworth said in a statement provided to HuffPost.

“I remain committed to safeguarding our Delegation’s longstanding judicial selection agreements with this and future Presidential administrations while ensuring our state’s judicial vacancies are handled in a fair, non-partisan and thorough manner,” she continued. “But it’s clear based on Mr. Dugan and Mr. McGlynn’s records and statements that I must ultimately oppose their nominations to serve lifetime appointments on the federal bench.”

Despite Duckworth’s opposition, Dugan and McGlynn were both confirmed. Fellow Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who also supports abortion rights, voted for both of them.

A spokesperson for Durbin did not respond to a request for comment. But his office later sent out a statement about his votes.

“I recognize and respect the opposition that was expressed to two of the Republican picks in this package, Judges Dugan and McGlynn. These nominees have made statements and expressed views with which I disagree, particularly on matters involving reproductive rights,” Durbin said in his statement. “But as part of our bipartisan state process, I supported all four nominees in the package.”

Pool via Getty Images
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who is a strong supporter of abortion rights, voted to confirm two anti-choice nominees to lifetime federal court seats.

For some reason, a handful of other senators who support abortion rights also voted to confirm Dugan and McGlynn. Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voted to confirm Dugan, while Manchin and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) voted to confirm McGlynn. Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), the lone pro-choice GOP senators, voted to confirm both nominees.

HuffPost reached out to the offices of all of these senators to ask why they voted for the nominees they did. A few responded.

“Senator Murphy remains a strong advocate for reproductive health and access to abortion,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “He ultimately voted against confirming Dugan because of his clear activism and leadership of anti-choice organizations. McGlynn, while a Republican and anti-choice in his personal beliefs, has not demonstrated the same type of activism, and is considered well-qualified and within the judicial mainstream.”

“Both Mr. Dugan and Mr. McGlynn were nominated by a bipartisan Illinois commission and are qualified to serve on the district court they were nominated to,” said Manchin communications director Sam Runyon.

“Senator Murkowski determined both nominees were qualified for the job and trusted the Illinois delegation’s judgement on judges that work for their state,” said Murkowski spokeswoman Karina Borger.

Both have a troubling record on constitutionally-protected reproductive health rights demonstrating extreme bias against women’s rights and science.Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Dugan, who is currently an Illinois state judge, was a co-founder of Illinois Vision 2020, a nonprofit whose stated goal is “ending abortion in Illinois by 2020” and which partners with the Illinois Federation for Right to Life.

Dugan wrote in a 2018 judicial candidate survey for Illinois Right to Life Action that he had “been deeply involved in various organizations as a pro-life advocate,” and that he questioned the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.

“For a number of reasons, the case of Roe v. Wade is sorely misplaced,” he said. The Supreme Court decision is established law, but “even with that, I do not believe that the Illinois Constitution, independent of the United States Constitution, provides a sound basis for expansion of the right of privacy to the same extent” as laid out in Roe v. Wade.

Dugan also said in the survey that he supported restrictions on young women’s access to abortion because they may be “presumably very emotional and maybe even irrational.”

McGlynn, also a state judge, was a member of the Illinois Federation for Right to Life in 2007, a nonprofit group that describes itself as “working to end abortion” since 1973. As a candidate for a state judicial seat in 2012, McGlynn was endorsed by the Illinois Federation for Right-to-Life PAC and the Illinois Citizens for Life PAC.

McGlynn chaired the platform and resolution committee for the Illinois Republican Party in 2004. That year, the party’s platform stated:

From the first beat of a heart to the last breath drawn, we recognize each individual’s dignity and worth. Government is obligated, by law and by deed, to protect and defend each individual’s right to life, not only from government action, but also against a threat from another. The right to life is of such primacy that no government entity nor any person shall be allowed to take another’s life without due process of law and only under the most compelling and grave circumstances. Government must defend and protect those who by age, disability or other affliction cannot protect themselves. This includes the protection of the unborn child.

Asked about this language in his Senate confirmation hearing in June, McGlynn said the platform was a political document with input from many GOP officials. But Charlie Johnston, a conservative blogger in Illinois and a friend of McGlynn’s, wrote in 2008 that “it was McGlynn who did the writing” and that it was “the most comprehensively pro-life platform in the nation.”

Lena Zwarensteyn of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 220 national civil rights groups, condemned the confirmation of both nominees. The organization wrote to senators in June opposing Dugan and McGlynn.

“Both have worked against reproductive freedom in their professional and personal capacities. Dugan previously campaigned on an anti-abortion stance and questioned the legality of Roe. Similarly, McGlynn has been instrumental in pushing forward an anti-abortion agenda in Illinois,” Zwarensteyn said in a Wednesday statement. “Their records on this and other critical civil and human rights make them unfit for lifetime positions.”

Trump’s most lasting legacy will arguably be his judges, who will sit on the nation’s courts for decades after he’s left the White House. He’s gotten a total of 214 Article III judges confirmed so far, including two Supreme Court justices, 53 appeals court judges and 157 district court judges. A common thread among his court picks is that many are young, white and male, and hold extreme ideological views on abortion, LGBTQ rights and other civil rights.

This story has been updated to include comment from Murphy’s, Manchin’s, Murkowski’s and Durbin’s offices.