Attorney Who Defended Abortion Clinic In Dobbs Ascends To Federal Judgeship
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Julie Rikelman, Senior Litigation Director at the Center for Reproductive Rights, who represents the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, speaks to the media after arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, a case about a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, on December 01, 2021 in Washington, DC. With the addition of conservative justices to the court by former President Donald Trump, experts believe this could be the most important abortion case in decades and could undermine or overturn Roe v. Wade.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In a 51-43 vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed the attorney who argued for the Mississippi abortion clinic in the landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to a federal appeals court Tuesday.

Julie Rikelman, who lost the most important case of her career in Dobbs, will sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which covers Puerto Rico and most of New England. The 51-year-old is seen by many as America’s “preeminent abortion rights attorney.”

“Throughout her career, Ms. Rikelman has demonstrated a commitment to upholding what was settled precedent by defending Roe v. Wade and has committed to following all current and future Supreme Court precedents on the bench,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said in a statement supporting her nomination.

Rikelman’s nomination was supported unanimously by Senate Democrats, including two self-described “pro-life Democrats,” Sens. Manchin and Bob Casey (D-PA). The Democrats were joined by two pro-abortion Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

The attorney has been the senior litigation director for the Center for Reproductive Rights, a radical pro-abortion group, since 2011.

President Joe Biden nominated Rikelman in July 2022, shortly following her failure in Dobbs, but Judiciary Committee Republicans were able to stall her nomination because of the 50-50 split in the Senate. Now that Democrats have a numerical majority, they can push through left-wing judicial appointees more quickly over Republicans’ objections.

During her confirmation hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) characterized Rikelman as “an extreme zealot advocating for abortion.” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) grilled Rikelman’s past writings characterizing pro-life crisis pregnancy centers as “faux clinics that pose as real medical facilities” and claiming they cause “women [to] suffer concrete harms to their health.”


The new judge also committed to applying the Dobbs decision “faithfully” in her judicial work, saying, “The rule of law itself depends on lower courts following Supreme Court precedent.”

The Mississippi clinic Rikelman represented closed in Summer 2022 after Mississippi’s trigger law went into effect following Rikelman’s unsuccessful attempt to convince the U.S. Supreme Court that abortion was a “fundamental right” under the Constitution. The Mississippi statute bans abortion except in cases of rape or to preserve the life of the mother.

Despite Rikelman’s notoriety for her work on abortion cases, it is unlikely she will significantly impact the current abortion jurisprudence. Abortion cases make up a very small amount of cases federal courts hear, and she has no jurisdiction over any of the red states whose abortion bans are caught in court.

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