Senator Leahy, the Judiciary, and Reproductive Rights

Posted for Meagan Gallagher, the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England 

I recently came across posts questioning Senator Leahy's commitment to women's health, but you have gotten it dead wrong. The reproductive health community is not pitted against Sen. Leahy–we stand together in support of access to quality, affordable health care for women.  As Chairman of the Judiciary committee, Sen. Leahy championed the successful passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act in 2013, repeatedly voted to protect access to women's health programs domestically and internationally and has led efforts to address vacancies on the federal bench.

We applaud his work to confirm fair-minded judges who are prepared to respond to the unconstitutional attempts to restrict women's access to health care, especially as a record breaking number of abortion restrictions pass in state legislatures.

Sen. Leahy has his work cut out for him.  The judicial confirmation process is difficult in a good year; last year, some Senators engaged in such extreme obstructionism that they forced a rules change to allow even non-controversial judges to be confirmed. This change, supported by Senator Leahy, allowed for the confirmation of Nina Pillard, who supports access to safe legal abortion, to the DC Circuit Court of appeals.

Of course, we may disagree with particular nominees. But there is no doubt that Sen. Leahy has stood strong with the women of Vermont, and we are proud to stand with him.

Meagan Gallagher
President & CEO

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

4 thoughts on “Senator Leahy, the Judiciary, and Reproductive Rights

  1. Okay, since Ms. Gallagher’s statement is clearly aimed at my recent posts regarding Senator Leahy, here’s my response.

    The good Senator has, indeed, been a staunch supporter of reproductive rights. 99% of the time, I’m proud to say he’s one of my Senators. But it’s just plain fact that his adherence to the Senate’s “blue slip” tradition has prompted a pretty strong response from the pro-choice community. And, according to, has also led to strained relations between Leahy and the Obama Administration.

    As chair of the Judiciary Committee, Leahy is in the ideal position to remove roadblocks to judicial nominees. One such roadblock is the “blue slip” tradition, in which any Senator wields an effective veto over any judicial nominee from his/her home state.

    One direct result of this is a deal which included the nomination of staunch anti-choicer Michael Boggs for a judicial post from Georgia. A coalition of 27 progressive groups wrote a letter to members of the Judiciary Committee urging the rejection of Boggs’ nomination. Those groups include NARAL, the National Abortion Federation, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the National Network of Abortion Funds, the National Organization for Women, the National Women’s Health Network, CREDO Action, and (ahem) Planned Parenthood of America.

    Later, CREDO Action directly targeted Leahy on the blue-slip issue, sending an email blast to its members urging them to contact Leahy, and posting an online petition asking Leahy to abandon the blue-slip tradition. (The petition has amassed over 95,000 signatures.)

    My posts did not question “Senator Leahy’s commitment to women’s health,” as Gallagher put it. I questioned his priorities: he seems to value an obscure Senate tradition over the seating of pro-choice judges.

    And, despite Gallagher’s assertion that “The reproductive health care community is not pitted against Sen. Leahy,” that community has publicly split with the good Senator on the issue of judicial nominations. Including her own parent organization.  

  2. you sticking to your guns. As usual, there’s more than meets the eye. What I don’t get is the wtf and why.

    Miss your frequent posts esp the snarks, hope all is well.

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