WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate on Wednesday confirmed President Donald Trump’s nominee to a seat on a federal court in Missouri, over objections from Democrats and one Republican to her record of anti-abortion litigation.
Sarah Pitlyk will take a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri after a 49-44 vote on Wednesday afternoon. Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted with Democrats in opposing Pitlyk’s nomination.
Pitlyk has worked for the last two years at the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public interest law firm that describes its mission as working to restore “respect in law for life, family and religious liberty.”
Pitlyk has defended multiple state abortion restrictions, including an Iowa law that banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. She also helped author a friend-of-the-court brief that urged the Supreme Court to take up a case over an Indiana law that barred abortions based on sex, race or disability and required abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal remains.
In the Indiana case, Pitlyk’s brief argued abortion providers target ethnic minorities and tied the abortion rights movement to racism and eugenics. The brief made arguments similar to those Justice Clarence Thomas made in an opinion concurring with the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision in the case.
Pitlyk has also worked to defend David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress in civil and criminal cases over undercover videos Daleiden released purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue.
Another friend-of-the-court brief Pitlyk helped write in a 2017 court fight over California surrogacy laws argued surrogacy “harms women and children,” saying it leads to riskier pregnancies and threatens the mental health of children by separating them from their mothers.
When defending herself from Democrats’ criticism that her work calls into question whether she could be impartial on the bench, Pitlyk said she would not be the first person with a history of advocacy work to become a federal judge.
“I think I stand in a long line of other people who have sat at this table who have had histories in advocacy or in issue-related advocacy or in politics and who have become very distinguished jurists,” Pitlyk said at her nomination hearing in September.
Pitlyk also is the latest Trump nominee to receive a not-qualified rating from the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. The panel faulted Pitlyk for a lack of trial experience and for falling short of the 12 years of experience it suggests for federal judicial nominees.
Pitlyk acknowledged to the committee that she has not worked on a case that went to trial, questioned a witness in a courtroom or taken a deposition, as most of her legal experience has been in drafting and filing appellate briefs.
She defended her experience to the committee, saying while she has not done some courtroom work that is common for district court nominees, she makes up for it with other experience.
Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., praised Pitlyk’s confirmation and defended her qualifications on Wednesday.
“Sarah’s strong legal experience, sharp intellect and commitment to the rule of law make her an outstanding choice for the Eastern District,” Hawley said in a statement. “I was proud to recommend her to President Trump, and I am confident that she will serve the people of Missouri as a principled and fair judge for decades to come.”