Samuel Alito Urged Reagan Admin. to Oppose Abortion, New Docs Show

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 30, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Samuel Alito Urged Reagan Admin. to Oppose Abortion, New Docs Show Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 30, 2005

Washington, DC ( — New documents released today about Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito provide further evidence that he opposes abortion and worked within the Reagan administration to overturn the high court case allowing it.

Papers released today by the National Archives included a second memorandum from Alito showing he opposed abortions and working to promote cases that limited them.

As an assistant to Solicitor General Charles Fried, Alito urged the Justice Department to support laws in Pennsylvania and Illinois that restricted abortion.

At the time, federal appeals courts had declared the law unconstitutional and the Reagan administration was considering weighing in on the cases as they advanced to the Supreme Court.

Alito wrote that the appeals gave President Reagan the "opportunity to advance the goals of bringing about the eventual overruling” over the Roe v. Wade decision that allowed legalized abortions.

"We should make clear that we disagree with Roe v. Wade and would welcome the opportunity to brief the issue of whether and, if so, to what extent that decision should be overruled,” Alito wrote in the June 3, 1985 memo.

Still, Alito ruled out a highly focused attack on Roe because he worried it would fail without there being a pro-life majority on the high court. Instead, he suggested a strategy of working to "mitigating its effects” by supporting state regulations of abortion. That’s the strategy the pro-life movement has used since Roe in order to limit abortions until the high court has enough votes to overturn the landmark case.

According to an AP report on the memo, Alito wrote that "no one seriously believes that the court is about to overrule Roe v. Wade. But the court’s decision to review these cases nevertheless may be a positive sign.”

"By taking these cases, the court may be signaling an inclination to cut back. What can be made of this opportunity to advance the goals of bringing about the eventual overruling of Roe v. Wade and, in the meantime, of mitigating its effects?" Alito added.

"I find this approach preferable to a frontal assault on Roe v. Wade,” Alito wrote, according to the AP story.

"It has most of the advantages of a brief devoted to overruling of Roe v. Wade; it makes our position clear, does not even tacitly concede Roe’s legitimacy, and signals that we regard the question as live and open. At the same time, it is free of many of the disadvantages that would accompany a major effort to overturn Roe.”

If an effort to overturn Roe failed, he worried the Reagan administration would be seen as losing a "stinging rebuke."

The Ronald Reagan presidential library previously released a memo Alito wrote in 1985 in an effort to win a higher position within the Justice Department.

In that letter, Alito said he did not think there was a right to abortion in the Constitution and he said he enjoyed working with administration officials to limit abortions.