John Roberts Not Bound by Abortion Statement Gonzales Says

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 26, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

John Roberts Not Bound by Abortion Statement Gonzales Says

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 26, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Tuesday said that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts would not be bound by a 2003 statement during his appeals court confirmation hearings that Roe v. Wade is "settled law."

Political observers have focused on that statement and are comparing it to a legal brief Roberts wrote more than a decade earlier calling for Roe v. Wade to be overturned and saying it was faulty law. The juxtaposition of the statements have prompted some to wonder where Roberts stands on abortion.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Gonzales said the answer Roberts gave applied only to the need for Roberts to follow precedent while serving on the appeals court. Roberts is free to oppose prior high court decisions once he has reached the nation’s leading judicial panel, Gonzales explained.

"If you’re asking a circuit court judge, like Judge Roberts was asked, yes, it is settled law because you’re bound by the precedent," Gonzales said.

"If you’re a Supreme Court justice, that’s a different question because a Supreme Court justice is not obliged to follow precedent if you believe it’s wrong," Gonzales told AP.

Groups on both sides of the abortion debate are trying to piece together support or opposition of Roberts’ nomination.

Pro-life organizations point to the legal brief, Roberts’ strict constructionist judicial temperament, his traditional Catholic views, and long-standing relationships he’s had with pro-life advocates as evidence that he would be likely to oppose Roe v. Wade.

Abortion advocates point to the same evidence and are aggressively asking their members to call on Senate Democrats and pro-abortion Republicans to oppose Roberts.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have said they plan to ask Roberts to clarify his views on the infamous abortion case.

Sen. Charles Schumer, of New York, said he gave Roberts a list of questions he will ask him during the Judiciary Committee hearings.

Three of them include, "Do you believe that Roe v. Wade (1973) was correctly decided? What is your view on the quality of the legal reasoning in the case? Do you believe that it reached the right result?"

Craig Bradley, a law professor at Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington, and a friend of Roberts, told Fox News that he doesn’t expect Bush’s nominee to answer the question.

"It would be inappropriate to answer that question … that’s looking forward to a potential case," Bradley said. "It is appropriate to ask about past cases, which is a little tricky because Roe v. Wade is both a past case and a future case."

"In theory, the Senate could say ‘what do you think of the position of Roe v. Wade?’ I doubt he would answer that one either, he would see through that," Bradley told Fox News.

Roberts’ answers to the abortion questions could determine how some senators cast their votes. The number two Democrat in the Senate said Sunday that Roberts’ views on abortions could halt his nomination to the high court.

Asked what he would do if Roberts said he did not find a right to abortion in the Constitution, Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin told "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert, "I wouldn’t vote for him. That would disqualify him in my mind."