by Steven Ertelt
July 5, 2005
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Justice Sandra Day O’Connor became an icon for abortion advocates because she voted to uphold abortion in a 1992 decision and to overturn partial-birth abortion bans in 2000. However, some abortion advocates are wrongly saying that Roe v. Wade could be overturned if President Bush replaces her with a pro-life jurist.
Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, sent out an email alert to her members shortly after O’Connor announced her retirement declaring an "abortion rights emergency."
"The worst has happened with the resignation of Sandra Day O’Connor," Smeal claimed. "Let there be no mistake about it: Sandra Day O’Connor was the 5th vote that was saving Roe v. Wade. Abortion rights and women’s rights are on the line."
While that may be an effective sales pitch in rallying abortion advocates to oppose a Bush nominee for the Supreme Court, it’s not the truth.
In the 2000 case of Stenberg v. Carhart, responsible for overturning partial-birth abortion bans, five justices, including O’Connor, voted to invalidate laws against the brutal abortion method.
However, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who supported the ban on the particular abortion method, joined the five anti-ban justices in reaffirming support for the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions that legalized abortion in general.
As a result, a change of two votes is necessary to take the court from its current 6-3 pro-Roe majority to a 5-4 majority in favor of overturning the infamous abortion case.
Despite Smeal’s rhetoric, other abortion advocates appear to realize this distinction.
"If two of those are replaced — or if Kennedy is replaced along with one of the five — you could have a flip on Roe," Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the Chicago Tribune.
The National Right to Life Committee has noticed the trend of some in the media and pro-abortion groups to claim Roe hangs by just one vote.
"[O]ne oft-heard myth is that the current Supreme Court is divided 5-4 on Roe v. Wade," the group said in a press release. "This is demonstrably wrong."
"[E]ven if the President were to appoint a successor justice who some day decides that Roe v. Wade was an unconstitutional ruling, there would still be a pro-Roe majority on the Supreme Court," the organization explains.
Yet, in an intense battle over a Supreme Court nomination, saying one vote won’t overturn abortion doesn’t excite supporters.