by Steven Ertelt
November 10, 2004
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Tuesday he is leaving his position as the nation’s top lawyer. Ashcroft delighted pro-life groups with his steadfast defense of President Bush’s pro-life positions against abortion and assisted suicide.
When a president is re-elected to a second term, a turnover typically ensues. Even before last week’s elections, Ashcroft has planned to step down because of health problems brought on by the enormous stress of tackling terrorism following the September 11th attacks.
"I believe that the Department of Justice would be well served by new leadership and fresh inspiration," Ashcroft said in his resignation letter to President Bush. "I believe that my energies and talents should be directed toward other challenging horizons."
"John has served our nation with honor, distinction, and integrity," President Bush said in a statement responding to Ashcroft’s decision.
"I am grateful for his advice on judicial nominations and his efforts to ensure that my judicial nominees receive fair hearings and timely votes," the president added.
Ashcroft achieved a strong pro-life voting record while he served on Capitol Hill and he continued advocating his pro-life position on behalf of the Bush administration.
Ashcroft issued an opinion saying the Controlled Substances Act allowed the federal government to prohibit the use of federally-regulated drugs in assisted suicides in Oregon. Since all drugs used to kill patients under the unique Oregon assisted suicide law are under federal control, the opinion would make it difficult for doctors to help patients kill themselves.
Abortion advocates used the occasion to blast Ashcroft and President Bush.
"John Ashcroft changed the Attorney General’s job description from law enforcement to ideological warfare," charged Elizabeth Cavendish, interim president of NARAL in reaction.
Cavendish criticized Ashcroft for "aggressively" defending the ban on partial-birth abortions from three lawsuits filed by abortion advocates.
To the chagrin of pro-abortion groups like NARAL, the Justice Department sought medical records from hospitals and abortion businesses of women who had partial-birth abortions to prove the point that such abortions are never medically necessary. Despite the promise to keep all information about the identity of the women confidential, abortion advocates called the move a violation of the women’s privacy.
Ashcroft’s team of attorneys is credited with forcing abortion practitioners to describe in gruesome detail the step by step method of dismembering an unborn child during the controversial procedure.
Justice Department attorneys also introduced the concept of fetal pain and prompted the nation to consider the excruciating pain that unborn children endure during an abortion.
The testimony has led to legislation that Congress is expected to consider next year requiring abortion businesses to allow women to request anesthesia for their baby prior to the abortion.
"Attorney General Ashcroft has been a tireless fighter for the sanctity of human life from birth to the end of life," Nikolas Nikas of Americans United for Life, told LifeNews.com. "The cause for life will miss his courage and tenacity."
Some of the names that have surfaced as possible replacements for Ashcroft include Ashcroft’s former deputy, Larry Thompson. A pro-life advocate, Thompson would become the nation’s first black Attorney General.
Other possibilities include Marc Racicot, the former Montana governor who is pro-life and served as the chairman of Bush’s re-election bid.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, another possibility, told the Associated Press he wasn’t interested in the job.
Ashcroft has pledged to remain in his post until a successor is confirmed, though that process could take months.