Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein,
The undersigned scientific and other public interest organizations urge you to vote against the confirmation of Wendy Vitter to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Ms.
Vitter has demonstrated significant disregard for evidence and science-based information in a context when such evidence is highly relevant.
Governmental policy and decision-making should be informed by scientific evidence and the best available data. When hearing cases involving governmental policies or actions, judges must be able to evaluate evidence about harms and benefits in an independent and careful manner by evaluating the weight of the evidence. Failing to consider relevant, compelling evidence and placing inappropriate weight on poorly supported assertions should disqualify nominees from judicial appointments.
At a Louisiana Right to Life Conference in 2013, Vitter moderated a panel called “Abortion Hurts Women’s Health,” which focused on health issues that have long been debunked by scientific
evidence, such as cancer risk.[i] While some states require abortion providers to convey statements suggesting that abortion increases the future risks of breast cancer,[ii] the National Cancer Institute has stated, “Prospective studies, which are more rigorous in design and unaffected by such bias, have consistently shown no association between induced abortion and breast cancer risk.”[iii] It is also irresponsible to claim that abortion hurts women’s health when the risks associated with carrying a pregnancy to term are far greater.[iv]
At the same panel discussion, Vitter encouraged doctors to distribute a misleading pamphlet that focused on types of death associated with birth control pills[v] without explaining that the same research study indicated that women using the pill were less likely to die than other women.[vi] It is highly irresponsible to suggest that healthcare providers give their patients biased and misleading information that fails to convey the totality of high-quality evidence about potential risks and benefits of oral contraceptives. More responsible models exist and are readily accessible: For instance, the National Cancer Institute describes findings of increases in the relative risk of breast and cervical cancer in hormonal contraceptive users compared to non-users alongside findings of lower risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer in those who take birth control pills.[vii] The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes that although some forms of oral contraceptives may increase the risk of venous thromboembolism, “this risk is still very low and is much lower than the risk of venous thromboembolism during pregnancy and the immediate postpartum period.”[viii]
To merit confirmation, judges must exhibit an ability to appropriately weigh and contextualize scientific evidence when matters involving science are before them. Vitter’s misrepresentations
of scientific evidence call into question her ability to do so appropriately. We therefore urge you to vote no on the confirmation of Wendy Vitter to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health
Government Accountability Project
National Center for Health Research
National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Women’s Health Network
i.“Abortion Hurts Women’s Health” Panel, Louisiana Needs Peace Conference (Nov. 1-2, 2013). Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6zJzlRr_EA&feature=youtu.be
ii. Guttmacher Institute. (2018). An Overview of Abortion Laws [As of April 1, 2018]. Available: https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/overview-abortion-laws
iii. National Cancer Institute (no date). Reproductive History and Cancer Risk. Available: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/hormones/reproductive-history-fact-sheet
iv. See Raymond EG & Grimes DA. (2012). The comparative safety of legal induced abortion and childbirth in the United States. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 119(2):215-219. And Gerdts C, Dobbin L, Foster DG, Schwarz EB. (2016). Side Effects, Physical Health Consequences, and Mortality Associated with Abortion and Birth after an Unwanted Pregnancy. Women’s Health Issues, 26(1): 55-59.
v. Breast Cancer Prevention Institute. (2012). The Pill Kills: The Life Threatening Medical Consequences of Oral Contraceptives or estrogen-progestin combination drugs. Available: https://www.bcpinstitute.org/uploads/1/1/5/1/115111905/bcpi-pill-kills-brochure.pdf
vi. Hannaford PC, Iversen L, Macfarlane TV, Elliott AE, Angus V, Lee AJ. (2010). Mortality among contraceptive pill users: cohort evidence from Royal College of General Practitioners’ Oral Contraception Study. BMJ, 340:c927. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c927
vii. National Cancer Institute (reviewed 2018). Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk. Available: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/hormones/oral-contraceptives-fact-sheet
viii. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Committee on Gynecologic Practice. Committee Opinion Number 540: Risk of Venous Thromboembolism Among Users of Drospirenone-Containing Oral Contraceptive Pills. Available: https://www.acog.org/-/media/Committee-Opinions/Committee-onGynecologic-Practice/co540.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20171127T2043082500.