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Statement of Senator Edward M. Kennedy Regarding the Nomination of J. Leon Holmes to the District Court to the Eastern District of Arkansas

Location: Unknown


I oppose the nomination of Leon Holmes to a life-time appointment to the District Court of the Eastern District of Arkansas. He may be an intelligent and capable lawyer, but his record gives me no confidence that he will be fair in the wide range of cases that come before him, particularly in cases involving privacy, the rights of women, and the right to choose.

Every nominee who comes before us promises to follow the law , including laws and cases they disagree with. Mr. Holmes is no different. His record indicates that he is fiercely opposed to the rights of women to exercise their constitutional right to choose, but says he is committed to following Roe and Casey.

Mr. Holmes. however, has demonstrated a commitment to using a variety of political and legal means to take away that right. His statements opposing a woman's right to choose are among the most extreme that we have seen. They fail to acknowledge the importance of the constitutionally-recognized interests at stake or the right of a woman to control her body.

Mr. Holmes has advocated state and federal amendments to the Constitution to ban abortion. He once said that the concern expressed by choice supporters for "rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with the same frequency as snow in Miami." As Senator Schumer has pointed out, it has only snowed once in the last century in Miami. Mr. Holmes has likened abortion to the Nazi holocaust. He has said that the "abortion issue is the simplest issue this country has faced since slavery was made unconstitutional. And it deserves the same response." In the mid-1980s he helped to write the Unborn Child Amendment in Arkansas that tried to ban the use of any public funds for abortions, including in cases of rape or incest, or to safeguard the health of a woman. As president of the Arkansas Right to Life Committee, Holmes argued against Title IX on the ground that colleges and hospitals receiving federal funds would be forced to provide abortion services.

In 1995, he said that the "only cause that I have actively campaigned for and really been considered an activist is the right to life issue." In 2000, he wrote an article approving of "natural law"-the idea that people have inalienable rights that precede the constitution-but then said that any recognition of a right to privacy in cases like Roe and Casey is illegitimate and inconsistent with natural law..

Mr. Holmes has written that a woman should "subordinate herself to her husband." He has also advocated prayer in schools and made statements critical of constitutional remedies for segregation such as the busing and assignment of students.

Mr. Holmes has every right to advocate his deeply held beliefs in his private life. But the Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear that the Constitution recognizes a woman's right to choose. In all likelihood the reason he was nominated is that he will do all he can to narrow that right. We should oppose his nomination.

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