Pro-Life Leaders Say John Roberts is a Reliable Abortion Opponent

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 24, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Leaders Say John Roberts is a Reliable Abortion Opponent Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 24, 2005

Washington, DC ( — David Souter, Anthony Kennedy, even Sandra Day O’Connor. Pro-life advocates remember these names of justices on the Supreme Court, if only because the assumption before their confirmation was that they would be reliable abortion opponents.

Some pro-life advocates are worried that John Roberts will be another name on the list, but top pro-life leaders who know him well say that won’t be the case.

For about a year before President Bush nominated Roberts last week to replace O’Connor on the nation’s high court, the Bush administration had floated his name to gauge reaction from key supporters and activists.

Some were frustrated about not having a clearer picture of his views on any issue, including abortion, because he has issued so few decisions in his short tenure on the D.C. Court of Appeals.

However, leading pro-life advocates say they reassured others that Roberts is one of them.

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice is one pro-life stalwart who says he knows and trusts Bush’s first Supreme Court pick.

"I have known John Roberts for 17 years," the longtime attorney told the New York Times. "When I talk about John Roberts with the groups, it is not theoretical, it is based on firsthand, direct experience. He and I have argued cases together before the Supreme Court – you can’t get more direct than that."

To get a feel for Roberts’ abortion views, many have pointed to a brief he helped write for the first President Bush, which argued that the Roe v. Wade decision was flawed and should be overturned. Detractors claim the legal brief reflected the opinion of the president and not necessarily Roberts’ own views.

In fact, Roberts himself, during his appeals court confirmation hearing in 2003, said legal briefs don’t necessarily reflect his thinking, but he spoke in general terms and not specifically about abortion or Roe v. Wade.

Sekulow tells the times he think Roberts is a Roe opponent and that "Roberts’ heart was in it."

"He doesn’t argue just to argue," Sekulow said.

Leonard Leo, chairman of Catholic outreach for the Republican Party and someone who has known Roberts for 15 years, agrees.

Even though Roberts has never ruled on an abortion issue, Leo says Roberts opinions on other hot political topics show "a respect for the text and original meaning and a presumption of deference to the political branches of government."

That means Roberts is not likely to agree with the invented abortion right the court found in 1973, the thinking goes.

Leo also points to the Roberts’ family’s strong Catholic faith, his wife Jane Sullivan Roberts’ longtime work with Feminists for Life, a top pro-life women’s group, and he said the Roberts moved to a new church to follow the transfer of their priest — known for his pro-life views and defending traditional Catholic teachings.

Meanwhile, Professor Hadley Arkes of Amherst, credited with developing the Born Alive Infants Protect Act, a federal law Bush signed to protect babies who survive failed abortion attempts, also vouches for Roberts.

He’s known the Roberts family for years and, at dinner with friends after Roberts’ confirmation to the appeals court, he suggested that court nominees could turn the tables on members of the Senate Judiciary when asked about abortion by asking them if they understood the ramifications of the Roe decision.

"He didn’t rule it out, but he didn’t think the hearings could be turned into that kind of seminar," Arkes told the Times.

Though they didn’t agree on the hearing strategy, Arkes said the implication to him was that Roberts agrees Roe is a bad Supreme Court decision with negative consequences.

Ultimately, Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family says pro-life advocates should be very hopeful.

"I think that we do know a lot about Judge Roberts, from his life, from his record, from the things he has stood for," Dobson told the New York newspaper. "We believe the issues we care about will be handled carefully by this judge."