U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas
> Facts about James Leon Holmes
The National Abortion Federation opposes the nomination of James Leon Holmes to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Federal district courts are crucial to the American judicial system as they represent the first, and often only, line of defense for the rights of women and families. Appellate courts ultimately hear only a fraction of cases brought in federal courts. Given Mr. Holmes' radical views about reproductive rights and the role of women in society, NAF believes that confirmation of Holmes to this court would threaten the reproductive rights of women in that district.
Mr. Holmes is fervently committed to the anti-choice movement. He has served as president of Arkansas Right to Life, helped form the Pro-Life Educational Alliance in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and served as a Secretary for the Unborn Child Amendment Committee. This Committee passed the "Unborn Child Amendment" to the state constitution that prohibits the use of public funds for abortion unless the woman's life is in danger. The intent of the Amendment is clear: "The policy of Arkansas is to protect the life of every unborn child from conception until birth, to the extent permitted by the Federal Constitution."1 The Amendment was later found to be in conflict with federal law because it lacked an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Mr. Holmes has stated, however: "...concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami."2 Yet, studies show that in fact, between 25,000 and 32,000 women each year become pregnant as a result of rape in the U.S.
Holmes' decades of anti-choice activism extends far beyond his involvement with organizations that seek to eliminate a woman's right to choose. Indeed, his writings clearly demonstrate his anti-abortion zeal. In a letter to the editor, Mr. Holmes compared pro-choice advocates to Nazis and wrote that abortion is "... the simplest issue this country has faced since slavery was made unconstitutional. And it deserves the same response."3 Mr. Holmes has also written in support of granting personhood rights to fetuses:
"... the word 'fetus' means, simply, a person developing in the womb. To continue our present policy is to give those persons in the womb no rights at all, not even the most minimal right, the right to life."4
The anti-abortion rhetoric of Mr. Holmes' statements is alarming. Should Holmes be confirmed, women of Arkansas will be unable to expect a fair and impartial arbitrator when deciding matters of law affecting their reproductive rights. In at least one case, Holmes' conservative ideology affected his approach to the law. As counsel for an anti-abortion protester, he made a so-called "choice of evils" argument. In Pursley v. Arkansas, Holmes defended his client for trespassing at a physician's clinic by claiming that the trespass was justified because his client was trying to inform women entering the clinic about the alleged harmful effects of abortion.5 Moreover, Holmes believes that "the Constitution was intended to reflect the principles of natural law" and has declared that both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey " make constitutional the theory of moral relativism, which is the antithesis of natural law."6
Mr. Holmes' extreme conservatism extends to his views about the proper roles of men and women in marriage. In one article written jointly with his wife, Holmes stated that, "... the wife is to subordinate herself to her husband."7 Holmes has also blamed the feminist movement for creating a "culture of death":
"It is not coincidental that the feminist movement brought with it artificial contraception and abortion on demand, with recognition of homosexual liaisons soon to follow... No matter how often we condemn abortion, to the extent we adopt the feminist principle that the distinction between the sexes is of no consequence and should be disregarded in the organization of society and the Church, we are contributing to the culture of death."8
Holmes has gone so far as to accuse the pro-choice movement of destroying democracy, stating "... pro-choice ideology... contains no limiting principle. When one person may choose to take the life or liberty of another, entirely innocent person, no defensible reason can be given why anyone should be prohibited from taking the life or liberty of anyone else. Then, democracy is dead."9
NAF believes that statements such as these demonstrate that Holmes is unfit to serve as an impartial judge.
The nomination of James Leon Holmes for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench jeopardizes the reproductive rights of women in Arkansas. Given his extensive history of anti-abortion activism, his extremist legal philosophy, and his support for the subordination of women, Holmes is clearly an inappropriate judicial candidate for District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. For the reasons stated above, NAF urges the Senate to reject his nomination.
- ARK. CONST. Amend. 68.
- Leon Holmes, Letter to the Editor, "Abortion Issue," Moline Daily Dispatch, December 24, 1980.
- Holmes, supra note 2.
- For additional information about the violence and threats of violence facing abortion providers, please visit the Clinic Violence section of NAF's website.
- Leon Holmes, "Comments on Shankman," The Catholic Social Science Review, vol. VI, 147, 149 (2001).
- Leon Holmes and Susan Holmes, Editorial, "Gender Neutral Language, Destroying an Essential Element of Our Faith," Arkansas Catholic, April 12, 1997 at 10.
- Leon Holmes, Editorial, "Lincoln-Douglas Debates: The Jury Is Not Yet In," Arkansas Gazette, Feb. 12, 1984, at 15B.