Pro-Life Groups Still Conflicted About Samuel Alito on Abortion

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

Pro-Life Groups Still Conflicted About Samuel Alito on Abortion Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 11, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Most pro-life groups have come out in full support of Samuel Alito’s nomination to replace outgoing pro-abortion Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. Some organizations remain concerned about some of Alito’s rulings and they say no one knows for sure how Alito would rule on a case to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Richard Collier, president of the Legal Center for the Defense of Life, was one of several pro-life advocates to share his concerns with the Associated Press.

"I don’t know what his personal views are, but I know that he has ruled on pro-life cases four times and he has ruled against pro-life positions three times," Collier said.

The National Right to Life Committee cites the rulings as well for its decision not to endorse Alito.

"In examining his record, there are four principal abortion-related cases," the group’s website states. "Judge Alito voted in favor of the pro-life side once and against it three times."

The decision drawing the most attention is a ruling in 1991 in which Alito voted to uphold pro-life laws in Pennsylvania, including one allowing a husband to know if his wife was considering an abortion of their baby. That decision has prompted abortion advocates to declare Alit unfriendly to the long-standing Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion and is prompting pro-abortion groups to launch a campaign against him next week.

The other three decisions include one overturning a New Jersey ban on partial-birth abortions, one overturning a law requiring Pennsylvania women seeking a tax-funded abortion in a case of rape or incest to have reported the assault to authorities, and a fourth regarding rights of unborn children in wrongful death cases in New Jersey.

Some pro-life advocates, like Jan LaRue of Concerned Women for America, say Alito’s decisions in those cases, especially regarding the partial-birth abortion ban, were handed down because he had to respect Supreme Court precedent while on the federal appeals court.

They say that he can overturn Supreme Court precedent once he’s confirmed to the high court.

"The opinions I’ve read show a Circuit Court judge who recognizes what all the lower-court judges recognize, which is that they can’t overrule the Supreme Court," LaRue told AP. "Some folks want their outcome no matter how the judge gets there. If you do that, you are being inconsistent on judicial restraint."

Other pro-life groups have come out in favor of Alito, including Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, Priests for Life, and Life Issues Institute.

But the application of precedent gives some pro-life advocates pause.

Clarke Forsythe, a leading attorney with Americans United for Life, says the other three decisions "reflect his status as a Circuit Court judge applying precedent, and to me they give no indication of how he would vote" on Roe.

Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, agreed.

"We certainly hope that Judge Alito is all the things that our opponents claim he is, but we don’t know that yet," she told AP. "We would prefer somebody with more of a paper trial on Roe v. Wade."

Alito doesn’t have that paper trail and will not be at liberty to discuss how he would rule on the landmark case during his Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. As a result, pro-life groups may continue to be divided on the question of whether Alito is the right kind of judge to be added to the high court.

The Senate appears likely to confirm Alito, given the reluctance of some moderate Democrats to support a filibuster. If he’s confirmed, Alito will probably be more friendly to pro-life legislation than O’Connor, but his views on Roe may not be known until he participates in a ruling concerning it.