Rehnquist Hospitalization Points to Kerry, Bush Differences on Abortion, Judges

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 25, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Rehnquist Hospitalization Points to Kerry, Bush Differences on Abortion, Judges Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 25, 2004

Washington, DC ( — Chief Justice William Rehnquist has been hospitalized for thyroid cancer and the news is putting a renewed focus on the presidential race and the kind of judges President Bush and John Kerry would select as the next president.

A statement released by the Supreme Court today said the high court’s top justice is being treated for the disease at Bethesda Naval Hospital, but he should return to work next week.

The court said Rehnquist was admitted to the hospital on Friday and underwent a tracheotomy, a surgical procedure in which a tube is inserted into the throat to aid in breathing.

Rehnquist, who is pro-life and was one of the two dissenters in the Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion, is one of several judges who court observers speculate will retire soon. That he has been hospitalized just one week away from the election brings the campaign issue to the forefront.

In addition to Rehnquist, associate Judges Sandra Day O’Connor, John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who back abortion, are all considered likely retirees over the next few years.

All three are advancing in age, like the 80 year-old Rehnquist, and they have all been treated for cancer. Justice John Paul Stevens, the oldest at 84, has had prostate cancer while Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had breast cancer and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had colon cancer.

In 1973, the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion by a 7-2 vote. The current court backs abortion by a 6-3 margin.

If President Bush appoints just two new pro-life judges to the court, that could shift the margin enough to possibly overturn Roe. Bush has already appointed numerous pro-life judges to federal courts and a NARAL analysis shows only two of 200 judges Bush has appointed showing any hint of backing legal abortion.

Should John Kerry be elected, he has promised to only appoint judges that will affirm the pro-abortion case. If he replaces retiring pro-abortion judges with new ones, who will likely serve for decades, abortion could remain legal for as much as thirty years.