John Roberts Provides Basis for Reversing Roe v. Wade Abortion Case

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 13, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

John Roberts Provides Basis for Reversing Roe v. Wade Abortion Case Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 13, 2005

Washington, DC ( — The first question out of the box in the Senate Judiciary Committee came from the panel’s chairman, Arlen Specter. Media reports of Roberts’ answers have focused on his admission that Roe v. Wade is a long-standing precedent, but they have not focused on his comments setting up reasons for overturning the 1973 decision.

During his questioning, Specter sought to lay the groundwork for regarding Roe v. Wade as a Supreme Court decision that shouldn’t be overturned because a generation of Americans have come to regard it as part of their lives.

"People have ordered their thinking and living around Roe," Specter said. "For two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships in reliance on the availability of abortion."

"Would you agree with that," Specter asked?

Roberts didn’t take the bait. He said that, while precedent is important, new facts and information could provide a basis for the Supreme Court to overturn a bad precedent-setting decision like Roe.

"Whether or not particular precedents have proven to be unworkable is another consideration on the other side — whether the doctrinal bases of a decision had been eroded by subsequent developments," Roberts said.

"For example, if you have a case in which there are three precedents that lead and support that result and in the intervening period two of them have been overruled, that may be a basis for reconsidering the prior precedent," Roberts explained.

Specter, who backs abortion, then tried to trap Roberts by getting him to say new facts and information hasn’t made the Roe precedent one that should be reversed.

"I feel the need to stay away from a discussion of particular cases," Roberts said.

Again, Specter asked, "Well, do you see any erosion of precedent as to Roe?"

Roberts declined the trapping question a second time: "Well, again, I think I should stay away from discussions of particular issues that are likely to come before the court again."

Later, Roberts said providing a "jolt" to the court is sometimes necessary when a bad decision has stood for too long.