September 23, 2013 — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced President Obama's nomination of Georgetown University Law professor Cornelia Pillard to serve on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, CQ Roll Call reports.
The 10-8 vote was divided between Republicans -- who were critical of Pillard's stance on abortion rights -- and Democrats -- who defended her qualifications.
According to CQ Roll Call, the court is widely perceived to be second in influence to the Supreme Court.
Republicans have voiced disapproval for Pillard and two other nominees -- Patricia Millett and Robert Wilkins -- on the grounds that the D.C. Circuit's workload does not warrant additional members. On Thursday, Republicans also lambasted Pillard for her views on abortion rights, as articulated in her academic writings.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) cited a 2007 paper in which Pillard posited that "anti-abortion laws and other restraints on reproductive freedom ... are at odds with equal protection." Grassley said her stance is "troubling" and she has a "seriously flawed understanding of the Equal Protection Clause," as she seemed to indicate "that any restriction on abortion that a state may want to pass, such as limiting third-trimester abortions, would be at odds with equal protection."
In addition, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Pillard "writes derisively of the 'pro-marriage movement' and presumably would ignore all of the evidence of the benefits of marriage to individuals, families and society."
Democrats on the panel defended Pillard's nomination. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Pillard "is highly credentialed" and "an important person for women's health and women's equality." She added that Pillard has worked on some of the most important cases on women's equality "in recent memory," such as helping to strike "down the exclusion of women from the Virginia Military Institute" (Anderson, CQ Roll Call, 9/19).