NARAL Defends John Roberts Ad, Abortion Advocates Decry It

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 11, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

NARAL Defends John Roberts Attack Ad, Abortion Advocates Decry It Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 11, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Leading abortion advocacy group NARAL is defending a highly controversial television ad claiming Supreme Court nominee John Roberts backs abortion-related violence. The ad has come under fire from pro-life groups and a neutral public policy watchdog and is now receiving criticism from other abortion advocates.

In an interview with the New York Times, NARAL president Nancy Keenan defended the ad.

"It’s tough and it’s accurate," Keenan said. "It has done exactly what we expected it to do," she added, namely to provide a ‘wake-up call’ about the stakes for reproductive freedom at issue in the current Supreme Court vacancy."

"Conventional wisdom says the Roberts nomination is a done deal, so it behooves us to make sure the American public knows who John Roberts really is," she added., a neutral political watchdog associated with the University of Pennsylvania, calls the ad "false" and "misleading."

The group said the 1998 abortion facility bombing that occurred in Alabama happened seven years after the legal brief Roberts filed regarding the pro-life protesters. Emily Lyons, an abortion facility staff injured in the bombing, appears in the NARAL ad blasting Roberts.

FactCheck reports that Roberts was not defending abortion violence but stating that state law was sufficient to prosecute anyone engaged in illegal activities and that an 1800s civil rights law should not be misused to charge offenders with additional crimes.

Keenan claims the FactCheck analysis is riddled with "glaring errors."

"They chose what side to take," she told the Times. "That tells us something."

However, even leading abortion advocates say NARAL is out of line with the television commercial, running nationally on cable news networks and in Rhode Island and Maine to persuade pro-abortion Republican senators to vote against Roberts.

Frances Kissling, the president of "Catholics" for a Free Choice, told the New York newspaper she is "deeply upset and offended" by the ad and called it "far too intemperate and far too personal."

Kissling, who contacted the Times to comment on the ad, said it "does step over the line into the kind of personal character attack we shouldn’t be engaging in."

"As a pro-choice person, I don’t like being placed on the defensive by my leaders. NARAL should pull it and move on," she added.

Meanwhile, the Times reports that Walter Dellinger, a former acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration and NARAL backer, sent a letter to the top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter and Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy, saying the portrayal of Roberts’ position on abortion violence in the ad is "unfair."

He said the NARAL ad was wrong to give "the impression that Roberts is somehow associated with clinic bombers." He added "it would be regrettable if the only refutation of these assertions about Roberts came from groups opposed to abortion rights."