Pitlyk has devoted her career to attacking reproductive freedom and it is clear that she will be a biased jurist. That's why the GOP confirmed her.
Sarah Pitlyk Spent Her Career Determined to Undermine Our Rights
Sarah Pitlyk is a judicial nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri who’s spent her career trying to roll back our sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Pitlyk is well-known in anti-abortion circles for litigating cases directly opposing abortion rights. She defended Iowa’s unconstitutional 6-week abortion ban and has fought against a local St. Louis ordinance that barred discrimination based on “reproductive health decisions,” such as having an abortion or using birth control.
She’s even directed her anti-abortion ideology and extremism against Planned Parenthood. She defended David Daleiden — an anti-abortion operative who advanced the 2015 video smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. (By the way, those fake, harmful videos have since been debunked)! Pitlyk has also backed the Trump administration’s gag rule, which forced Planned Parenthood out of the Title X program and is now jeopardizing care for millions of people across the country.
And while Pitlyk has made clear she’s against abortion, she’s also foughtagainst birth control access and has gone on the record againstalternative reproductive options, such as surrogacy and in vitro fertilization, that an increasing number of people use when facing challenges to getting pregnant.
Bottom line: her extremely biased views have made clear she can’t be trusted to rule on our reproductive health and rights.
What is Title X?
The Title X Family Planning Program is a federal grant program created in 1970 to provide comprehensive and confidential family planning services and preventive health services. Services provided include contraception counseling and provision, breast and cervical cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy diagnosis and counseling.
Title X is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Population Affairs (OPA). The program prioritizes serving people and families with low-incomes and is implemented through grants to over 3500 clinical sites, including public health departments and non-profit health centers.
What is the Gag Rule?
There are two central provisions within the new Title X rules endangering the health and wellbeing of the millions of Americans who depend on this funding for their health care.
First is the Gag Rule which prohibits health care providers serving in Title X funded institutions from referring patients for abortion care. This is a clear violation of medical ethics and flies in the face of all health care providers and their value of the patient-provider relationship. No health care provider should be forced to withhold medical information from their patients.
Second is the blocking of Planned Parenthood health centers from receiving funding through Title X through an onerous “physical separation” requirement. This is specifically designed to block patients from accessing care at Planned Parenthood, a vital provider of health care across this country serving 41% of those who rely on Title X health centers.
These provisions, combined with new language saying that Title X grantees are not required to provide every acceptable and effective method of family planning, mean that patients are losing access to essential health care and information.
After the Trump-Pence administration issued the draft of the rule, nearly 500,000 people submitted public comments opposing this dangerous rule. Every major medical association also denounced the rule along with hundreds of federal, state, and local elected officials.
The vocal opposition was so loud because our nation depends on Title X to ensure that every person – regardless of income, identity, or whether or not they have insurance, can access basic, preventive reproductive health care.
It’s not news that Trump has made packing the federal courts with the youngest, most radical, least qualified jurists ever seen a priority. Nor is it news that this project has been singularly successful because it was contracted out to effective outside groups, and because Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell now cares about no other. Last week, the Senate advanced the nomination for a lifetime tenured position of a 37-year-old associate professor, who had been rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. Justin Walker, the prospective judge in question, has never tried a case. He’s never been co-counsel in a case. His principal qualification for a federal district court judgeship seems to be his important legal work spent “conducting over 70 interviews in which he challenged the account of Christine Blasey Ford.” He’s a TV judge whom Mitch McConnell somehow touted as “unquestionably the most outstanding nomination that I’ve ever recommended to Presidents to serve on the bench in Kentucky.” Despite his lack of any judicial qualifications and the once-rare not-qualified ABA rating, every Republican on the Judiciary Committee voted to advance his nomination while Democrats broke against him. As Jennifer Bendery noted here, “in his entire eight years in the White House, President Barack Obama didn’t nominate anyone to be a lifetime federal judge who earned a ‘not qualified’ ABA rating.” Walker was Trump’s fourth. And on Thursday, the Senate is poised to vote on the fifth, Sarah Pitlyk, nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Like Walker, Pitlyk hasn’t generated much attention, despite the fact that she too has no trial experience whatsoever, which is what earned her the ABA’s not-qualified rating. “Ms. Pitlyk has never tried a case as lead or co-counsel, whether civil or criminal. She has never examined a witness,” the ABA said in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The absence of any work in litigation was once disqualifying for putative nominees, even in the eyes of some Republicans (you may recall that Sen. John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) was once bothered by such trivial matters). Now the fact of no experience is used by defenders to say that others with thin records have been confirmed so why not? We have now reached a newer threshold, in which Senate Republicans object not to a nominee’s lack of judicial experience, but only to their failure to hew perfectly to the Federalist Society template for judicial acceptability. The no-litmus-test party has become unwilling to support anyone who departs from its new litmus test. Halil Suleyman “Sul” Ozerden is thus not deemed sufficiently captive to be confirmed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Like many nominees who have been advanced before her, Pitlyk’s primary legal work has consisted of attacks on abortion rights, tempered by attacks on constitutionally protected contraception rights, leavened by other attacks on abortion, and supported with her work defending David Daleiden—the author of a vicious smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, based on fake videos of Planned Parenthood officials appearing to negotiate the sale of aborted fetal body parts. These are all claims that were later debunked by a Republican-led House Oversight Committee. Criminal charges were brought against Daleiden. Yet Pitlyk’s biography proudly notes that she was “part of a team defending undercover journalists against civil lawsuits and criminal charges resulting from an investigation of illegal fetal tissue trafficking.” In last year’s Box v. Planned Parenthood, Pitlyk made the transparently false argument in an amicus brief that abortion and birth control are based in the eugenics movement and urged that: “The eugenic origins of the birth-control movement—the progenitor of the abortion rights movement—are well-established” and “Given its strategic location of abortion clinics near minority neighborhoods and its blatant marketing of abortion to the minority community, the abortion industry’s claims to bear no responsibility for the staggering numbers of minority abortions beggars belief.” That claim has been roundly debunked as false.
Pitlyk’s biography also boasts that she worked to defeat an “abortion sanctuary city” ordinance in St. Louis and that she’s done “several landmark pro-life and religious liberty cases.” Let’s flag also that she is up for a judgeship in Missouri, where threats to the survival of the only remaining clinic in the state launched street protests earlier this year. As Eleanor Clift has written, Pitlyk’s work has opposed in vitro fertilization, having authored an amicus brief opposing a California statute that protects the right to assisted reproductive technology, claiming that “surrogacy has grave effects on society, such as diminished respect for motherhood and the unique mother/child bond; exploitation of women; commodification of gestation and of children themselves; and weakening of appropriate social mores against eugenic abortion.” Pitlyk has argued that frozen embryos should be considered human beings as a matter of law. She also, according to this report, argued in 2018 to a federal appeals court that “a federal judge should be disqualified from overseeing a case, based on a Facebook profile of the judge’s wife as well as the judge’s prior position on the board of a health clinic that donated space to Planned Parenthood.”