by Steven Ertelt
July 27, 2005
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Abortion advocates are upset with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ comments concerning Supreme Court nominee John Roberts’ views on abortion and overturning Roe v. Wade. They say President Bush’s top attorney is trying to provide cover for Roberts’ desire to overturn the infamous abortion case.
On Tuesday, Gonzales explained a prior comment Roberts had made concerning Roe when he told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2003 that it was "settled law."
Gonzales indicated Roberts could not overturn Supreme Court precedent as an appeals court judge but he could do so as a Supreme Court justice.
NARAL president Nancy Keenan seized on the comments, saying they proved Roberts wants to overturn Roe.
"They are coming clean on how meaningless his evasive 2003 testimony was," Keenan told the Washington Post newspaper.
"It’s now even clearer than before that the far-right activists who’ve been turning handsprings in celebration of Roberts’ nomination are getting exactly what they wanted: a proven activist opponent of personal freedoms like a woman’s right to choose," Keenan added.
But Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos told the Post that Gonzales’ remarks were not an indication of how Roberts would rule on abortion, but merely an explanation of the role of an appeals court judge versus a Supreme Court justice.
Scolinos said Gonzales was showing "a technical difference between circuit courts, which are bound by precedent, and the Supreme Court, which often gives great deference to precedent but is not required to abide by it."
"It would be a real stretch to claim this purely factual statement about how our court system operates is indicative of how Judge Roberts would address the abortion issue, or any other issue," Scolinos told the Post.
Roberts’ abortion views have become a hot topic for debate as the Senate considers whether or not to confirm President Bush’s first pick for the high court.
Roberts previously wrote a Supreme Court brief while he worked for the former President Bush arguing that Roe was poor jurisprudence and should be overturned. Gonzales offered a clarification of that comment and his "settled law" remark on Tuesday.
"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 told the Associated Press. "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."
Documents the White House provided to members of the Senate shed little additional light on Roberts’ abortion views.
In an October 1981 memo, he writes about attending an American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research conference. He notes that those at the meeting "recognized a serious problem in the current exercise of judicial power" as demonstrated "by what is broadly perceived to be the unprincipled jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade."
However the memo makes it difficult to determine if he is writing about the attendees views of Roe, his own, or both.