by Steven Ertelt
January 10, 2006
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — During hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, appeals court judge Samuel Alito said that the precedent arrived at in the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion is not necessarily permanent.
Under questioning from Sen. Arlen Specter, the chairman of the judicial panel, Alito avoided being pressed down that a privacy right or a right to abortion should never be overturned.
Alito did not go as far as Chief Justice John Roberts did when he described Roe as "embedded" in the culture, though Roberts also explained how a Supreme Court precedent like Roe v. Wade could be overturned.
In response to a question from Specter, Judge Alito said he agreed there is a right to privacy but he said it covered other issues.
"The Fourth Amendment certainly speaks to the right of privacy. People have a right to privacy in their homes and in their papers and in their persons. And the standard for whether something is a search is whether there’s an invasion of a right to privacy, a legitimate expectation of privacy," he explained.
Specter pressed him further and Alito agreed with two cases authorizing the right to privacy with regard to the purchase of birth control.
Specter then pressed Alito on whether he supported the concept of stare decisis — respecting Supreme Court precedent — on the issue of abortion.
"I think the doctrine of stare decisis is a very important doctrine. It’s a fundamental part of our legal system," Alito explained. Yet, Alito explained that it’s also "not an exorable command" — meaning it doesn’t put the Supreme Court in the position of never being able to overturn precedent.
"Sometimes changes in the situation in the real world can call for the overruling of a precedent," he said.
Specter hoped to get Alito to agree that the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Casey, which the high court used to uphold it’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, was a precedent that shouldn’t be overturned. Alito disagreed.
"I personally would not get into categorizing precedents as super-precedents or super-duper precedents," Alito explained.
"I don’t want to leave the impression that stare decisis is an inexorable command because the Supreme Court has said that it is not," he added.