Senate Republicans Will Begin Judicial Abortion Battles in March

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 7, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Republicans Will Begin Judicial Abortion Battles in March Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 7, 2005

Washington, DC ( — The expected battle over President Bush’s pro-life judicial nominees is set to begin next month, according to an article by syndicated columnist Bob Novak.

Novak writes that Senate Republican leaders will bring up the appeals court nomination of Janice Rogers Brown, a pro-life African-American woman who is a member of the California Supreme Court.

Brown’s nomination was one of 16 pro-life appellate court judges that Senate Democrats blocked with a filibuster. Though they made gains in the November elections, Senate Republicans, with the help of pro-life Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, are still a few votes short of preventing a filibuster.

One tactic that has been considered to get around the roadblock is the "nuclear option," which would lower the number of votes needed for a filibuster of judicial nominees to a simple majority.

Novak writes that the Senate GOP leadership is expected to try it with Brown’s nomination next month.

They had considered waiting to use the tactic until President Bush nominated his first Supreme Court justice. However, Novak indicates they are ready to give it a trial run with Brown.

President Bush renominated Brown, the first black woman to serve on California’s Supreme Court, in January for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 1997, she issued a well-researched dissent in a case where the California Supreme Court overturned a pro-life law requiring abortion facilities to obtain parental consent before performing an abortion on a teenage girl.

Brown accused the court’s plurality of abrogating the constitutional rights of parents, described the court’s thinking as circular, and called the case "an excellent example of the folly of courts in the role of philosopher kings."

"When fundamentally moral and philosophical issues are involved and the questions are fairly debatable," Brown wrote, "the judgment call belongs to the Legislature. They represent the will of the people."

She also dissented in a decision requiring Catholic Charities to pay for contraception coverage in employee health insurance plans. The decision concerns pro-life groups because it could lead to a requirement that abortion be covered as well.

Brown has also garnered the support of the California voters. In 1998, 76% of voters decided to keep Brown on the bench in their state, the highest percentage of supporting votes in that election.

In November, the Senate voted 53-43 in favor of shutting off debate and allowing a vote on Brown’s nomination — seven votes shy.