Supreme Court Battle After O’Connor Departure Focused on Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 1, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Supreme Court Battle After O’Connor Departure Focused on Abortion

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 1, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Groups on both sides of the abortion debate are getting ready for one of the largest national battles over the issue of abortion outside of a presidential election. With the retirement of pro-abortion Supreme Court Justice San Day O’Connor, the direction of the court on the issue of abortion could be greatly affected.

O’Connor strongly backed legalized abortion and was the deciding vote in a 2000 case that overturned many state laws on partial-birth abortion.

Should President Bush replace O’Connor with a pro-life jurist, a majority of the court would ban a partial-birth abortion ban and would be just one vote away from the five votes necessary to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.

Abortion advocates and pro-life organizations understand this tenuous court position.

"The resignation of Justice O’Connor creates a devastating and dangerous moment," said Planned Parenthood interim president Karen Pearl. "Her departure places women’s health at risk, endangering the future of reproductive rights in this nation."

Jan LaRue of Concerned Women for America says Bush "has the historic opportunity to keep faith with the promise he has repeated numerous times, which is to name justices who are like Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas."

Planned Parenthood announced Friday that it is already planning a series of protests and rallies across the nation saying it was "sounding a call to arms."

"With so much at stake, Planned Parenthood will be on the frontlines of the Supreme Court battles to ensure women’s health is protected,” said Pearl.

Pro-abortion groups aren’t confident Bush will select a nominee like O’Connor, who conservatives feel compromised the strong pro-life views of President Ronald Reagan, who appointed her in 1981.

"President Bush has a record of appointing extremists to the federal bench," Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation abortion business trade group, said. "Recent examples of such lifetime appointments include Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, and William Pryor. All of these nominees have shown an overwhelming hostility to Roe v. Wade."

How successful Bush is at getting a pro-life nominee on the court depends on whether the Senate filibusters his appointment. If any member does, Bush will need 60 senators willing to stop debate and allow an up or down confirmation vote.

Bush is helped by a deal reached among 14 Democrat and Republican members, who promised not to use the filibuster except for "extraordinary circumstances."

But, Saporta said her group would urge abortion advocates in the Senate to filibuster any pro-life nominee.

"Any nominee who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade would be an extraordinary circumstance, and we would encourage a bipartisan filibuster to defeat such a nominee," she said.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL said her group would specifically target senators, including Republicans she believes might be persuaded to cast off party lines and vote based on abortion.

Keenan said Republican senators "who are pro-choice will also be getting attention" such as Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee.

"These senators should ask a nominee if he or she would uphold Roe v. Wade," she said.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, says pro-life Americans are ready to fight hard to place another pro-life member on the Supreme Court.

"The public is primed for the fight it will take to confirm a nomine," Perkins said. "We will wage an unprecedented effort for a fair and prompt up or down vote through the mobilization of 20,000 churches across the nation."

Related web sites:
Family Research Council –
Concerned Women for America –