Why Courts Matter -- 5th Circuit

Yesterday, a three-judge panel for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to allow a Texas law that will block safe and legal abortion in vast stretches of Texas. As a result, many women will not be able to get the care they need, whether it be abortion care or a whole array of preventive services such as family planning that reproductive- health centers provide.

Judge Priscilla Owen, the author of the order, is among the most staunchly anti-abortion judges in the country. For decades, conservatives have been appointing judges like Owen who choose ideology over the law. Owen and the other two judges who ruled in this case were appointed by George W. Bush.

Conservatives long ago realized that they could use the courts to get the outcomes they would never get otherwise. While a president may only be in office for four to eight years, a federal judge is appointed for life and can shape the law for decades.

We are seeing that impact now.

President Obama has only been able to make two appointments to the 5th Circuit and Republicans in the U.S. Senate have delayed his efforts to fill two current 5th Circuit vacancies for a total of three years! By attempting to keep the President’s nominees off the bench, Republicans are trying to keep the courts in the hands of those who ignore the rule of law and the rights we value in favor of ideological pursuits.

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