The July 12 editorial in this newspaper (“The wrong reasons”) criticized some executive councilors for the importance they placed on evaluating the past involvement of a recent nominee for chief justice of our state Supreme Court in advocating for the restriction of the right to safe, legal abortion.
We believe The Sentinel’s position unfairly dismissed as “politics” issues that are fundamental to gender equality and to ensuring we have a judiciary capable of serving all New Hampshire citizens without bias.
Key legal protections under the federal Constitution are at risk as the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court has shifted toward hostility to individual rights. Future U.S. Supreme Court decisions eroding these rights will trigger greater focus on our state laws and Constitution to maintain these protections. Cases impacting decades of progress made toward gender equality and reproductive freedom for women and girls could soon land on the docket of our state Supreme Court.
With so much at stake, the nomination process for any state court judge, but especially the chief justice, must provide ample opportunity for elected officials and the public to raise questions about the fitness and philosophy of nominees. Our executive councilors must examine whether nominees have an identified or implicit bias toward any issue or group, especially those who have historically faced discrimination based on race, sex, gender, disability, or membership in any protected class. Access to reproductive health care, including abortion, is a cornerstone of gender equality and personal freedom for women. Asking a judicial nominee about their involvement in restricting such rights helps evaluate their fitness to serve all citizens.
We commend those executive councilors that questioned Gordon MacDonald’s lived experiences and philosophy regarding rights that impact women at the June 26 hearing. No one would deny the appropriateness of rigorously questioning a nominee who had taken positions that were racist or anti-Semitic, and expecting clear answers which repudiate these affiliations. Yet asking questions about a nominee’s past affiliation with and advocacy for positions that diminish women’s autonomy and equality are deemed political. We respectfully disagree.
It is critical that women’s voices are respected in our governmental processes to ensure that our basic rights and freedoms are protected and that the clock is not turned back. Dismissing efforts at advancing gender equality as ideological “politics,” as The Sentinel did in its editorial, undermines the ability of women to seek equal protection under the law.
JENNIFER FRIZZELL and LEAH PLUNKETT
18 Low Ave.