President Bush went young and conservative with Judge John G. Roberts Jr., nominating a man for the Supreme Court vacancy that might tilt the court to the right. With Republicans controlling the White House and the Senate, the President sought to reward his conservative supporters with a Supreme Court nominee positioned well to the right of center. The only question is how far to the right will he go?
“With some nominees, you might have said: Well, there’s a darn good shot that’s going to be a consensus nominee. With others, you’d say: There’s a darn good shot it’s not going to be a consensus nominee. He’s in the middle,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said of Roberts.
Democrats acknowledged privately that Roberts’ thin record does not lend itself easily to attack, though they are troubled particularly about his views on abortion. There will be a fight, they predicted, and rightly so. Many key abortion decisions, if not Roe v. Wade itself, hang on just one vote and oftentimes that vote was from Sandra Day O’Connor.
Most notably, and probably the biggest baggage that nominee Roberts will carry with him into the hearings is the amicus brief he went out of his way to file on behalf of Operation Rescue, an organization in which many of its members and/or sympathizers have the stated goals of: breaking the law with violence (including blowing up abortion clinics), killing and intimidating doctors who perform abortions, and intimidating women and blocking their access to the clinics that provide abortions. Such activities border on domestic terrorism and their activities should not have been supported by this candidate.
Instead, Roberts filed an amicus curiae brief in the case on Operation Rescue’s behalf. At the Supreme Court level, that case was called Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic (it was NOW v. Operation Rescue at the trial and appellate levels). The brief argued that the protesters’ behavior did not:
discriminate against women; and
that blockades and clinic protests were protected speech under the First Amendment.
The case helped push congressional passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
The questions linger: why would one go out of their way to write a legal brief, thereby providing aid and comfort to an organization bordering on domestic terrorist? If Roe was settled law in his mind (as he stated previously to the Senate), why is he helping extremists block abortion clinics from citizens looking for health care in a lawful and peaceful manner?
Considerably ironic, on the same week Eric Robert Rudolph, the right-wing, anti-choice killer is sentenced to life in prison, his apparent ideological twin is named as a Supreme Court nominee by President Bush. Only careful scrutiny will reveal whether Roberts will protect the right to choose, but looking at his obvious associations with radical, violent, anti-choice groups it appears that this is not the case.
Those who know John G. Roberts, Jr. say deep in his heart, he DOES want to overturn Roe v. Wade. For a jurist with almost no record and a known history of backing anti-abortion terror groups, an assurance may not be enough. Senators need to delve deeply into this man’s personality and character. The hearings and process should be lengthy and not hurried, as some out of the mainstream politicians have suggested. Since Sandra Day O’Connor has pledged to remain on the Court until her successor is confirmed, there is no reason to rush such an important vote with such longstanding implications.
Democrats need to assure themselves that this man will preserve Roe before they allow him to proceed. Moderate Republicans like Specter, Snowe, Chafee, and the like need to consider carefully the implications of their vote, if it is found that Roberts is a radical, activist, anti-choice character. If this is the case, Republican moderates need to stand up and show backbone by rejecting a nominee who will cause a change in the court and the law that a massive majority of Americans do not support. It is not simply enough to defer to the President in his decision. The Senate is co-equal in the decision and if Roberts is not the man for the job, Republicans, as well as Democrats, have the obligation to the American people to send this nominee back and ask President Bush to nominate someone more in the mainstream.
Rights and freedoms Coalition