Chief Justice William Rehnquist Dies, Leaves Pro-Life Legacy

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 4, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Chief Justice William Rehnquist Dies, Leaves Pro-Life Legacy Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 4, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Chief Justice William Rehnquist passed away Saturday night after battling thyroid cancer. The 80 year-old high court justice died at his northern Virginia home with his three children around his side, according to Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arburg.

"The Chief Justice battled thyroid cancer since being diagnosed last October and continued to perform his dues on the court until a precipitous decline in his health the last couple of days," she told The Associated Press.

Appointed by President Richard Nixon in 1971, Rehnquist developed a strong pro-life legacy with is opposition to abortion and was one of just two justices in 1973 who dissented in the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that overturned laws prohibiting abortion nationwide. The case paved the way for more than 44 million abortions and the deaths and injury to countless women.

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan elevated Rehnquist to the Chief Justice position.

Speculation about whether Rehnquist would retire and step down from the court consumed Washington observers for the last year as he battled numerous health problems.

Early in August, Rehnquist visited Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington to be treated for a high fever.
Rehnquist was briefly hospitalized with a fever in July and in March because of a problem with his tracheotomy tube that helped him breathe.

But, Rehnquist said he would continue to work at the Supreme Court as long as his health allowed.

"I want to put to rest the speculation and unfounded rumors of my imminent retirement. I will continue to perform my duties as chief justice as long as my health permits," he said in a July 14 statement.

With Rehnquist’s death, President Bush faces another decision involving the Supreme Court and the death comes just days before the Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the nomination of attorney John Roberts, a conservative appeals court justice who replacing outgoing pro-abortion Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

O’Connor voted to uphold Roe and was the deciding vote in a case overturning a state ban on partial-birth abortions that has had a far-reaching effect.

Bush will have to determine when to appoint a replacement and whether to elevate another judge, such as pro-life Justices Atonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas to the chief justice position or to nomination someone else entirely to step into the court’s leadership role.