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Senate confirms abortion rights lawyer to US appeals court


By Andrew Goudsward

(Reuters) – A lawyer who argued on the losing side of the U.S. Supreme Court case that ended the national right to abortion won confirmation on Tuesday to a seat on a federal appeals court.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Julie Rikelman, a top lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, to the Boston-based 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals by a vote of 51-43.

Two moderate Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted in support of Rikelman, joining all Senate Democrats present for Tuesday’s vote.

Rikelman represented Mississippi’s last remaining abortion clinic in urging the Supreme Court to reaffirm the constitutional right to abortion and strike down a state law that banned the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The court’s conservative majority used the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to overturn prior rulings that recognized a national right to abortion, in a landmark decision last June that left the issue in control of states.

President Joe Biden Rikelman to the court one month after the court’s decision, a move cheered by progressive advocates who have pressed Biden to prioritize civil rights issues in his judicial picks.

Rikelman’s nomination drew opposition from Republicans, who questioned her abortion rights advocacy during a September 2022 Senate hearing and described her position on the issue as extreme.

Rikelman vowed at the hearing to apply the Supreme Court’s recent abortion ruling in future cases, recognizing it as “the law of the land.”

She also committed to viewing all arguments in cases before her “with an open mind.”

Prior to working at the Center for Reproductive Rights, Rikelman was a lawyer for NBCUniversal handling litigation and worked at a prominent New York law firm.

She is Biden’s third nominee to secure a seat on the court, whose active judges were all nominated by Democrats.

(Reporting by Andrew Goudsward; Editing by David Bario & Shri Navaratnam)

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