Republican Senators, no longer content with merely imposing restrictions on women who choose not to carry pregnancies to term, are about to confirm a lifetime federal judge who once argued that people who sought in vitro fertilization and surrogacy would lead to a “diminished respect for motherhood.” “Pro-life” is, as always, a fallacy.
HuffPost reports that Sarah Pitlyk, Trump’s pick to sit on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and a former clerk for Brett Kavanaugh, argued in a 2017 brief that assisted reproductive advancements like IVF and gestational surrogacy would have “grave effects on society, including 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.” She also once claimed that “surrogacy is harmful to mothers and children”—by... making them?—“so it’s a practice society should not be enforcing.”
What’s more, earlier this year, the Daily Beast unearthed arguments she made in a 2015 IVF-related custody case over a man and woman’s frozen embryos that claimed that the court, which ruled against her and awarded custody to the man, “treated the embryonic children as inanimate objects, not human beings with the same interests as other unborn children.” She also argued that the couple’s existing children would “have to navigate the murky psychological waters of knowing that they had similarly situated siblings who died at the hand of their father,” as if we didn’t all have millions of potential future siblings who went that way.
Of course, Pitlyk is also anti-abortion, arguing that it’s a “scientific fact” that “human life begins at the moment when a human sperm fertilizes a human egg” (it’s not) and defending Iowa’s six-week abortion ban, which has since been ruled unconstitutional. This is de rigueur in Trump’s and Mitch McConnell’s America. But her stance on IVF and surrogacy has raised particular alarm with Senator Tammy Duckworth, who herself used IVF to conceive children.
Duckworth wrote a letter asking the Senate to vote against Pitlyk’s confirmation, which HuffPost published:
“As a mother who struggled with infertility for years and required IVF to start my family, I would be one of the many Americans who could never enter Ms. Pitlyk’s courtroom with any reasonable expectation that my case would be adjudicated in a fair and impartial manner,” said Duckworth.
“I could not trust that Ms. Pitlyk’s opinions were based on facts and circumstances, rather than reflecting her personal beliefs,” the senator continued. “Not after Ms. Pitlyk cruelly implied in an amicus brief she proudly submitted to the Supreme Court that children conceived with the help of [assisted reproductive technology] are inferior. Not after Ms. Pitlyk accused families who opt for surrogacy of contributing to ‘grave effects on society,’ including disrespecting motherhood.”
“A lifetime appointment to the Federal Bench is a privilege, not a right. Ms. Pitlyk’s own words should disqualify her from securing such an honor,” added Duckworth. “Please join me in opposing Sarah Pitlyk’s confirmation.”
So far, Susan Collins is the only Republican planning to vote against Pitlyk’s confirmation, all but ensuring she has the numbers to get through. Pitlyk is 42. The appointment lasts for a lifetime. This is where we are now.