With the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor from the United States Supreme Court, President Bush has the opportunity to directly affect the make up of the Court and the lives of Americans for decades to come. The National Abortion Federation urges the President to honor America's desire for moderate judges who respect precedent and to refrain from nominating an extreme individual for such an important lifetime appointment.
The vacancy left by Justice O'Connor poses a significant threat to women's reproductive rights in the United States. While Justice O'Connor voted to uphold restrictions on a woman's right to choose, she also cast pivotal votes in cases preserving the principles of Roe v. Wade. President Bush now has the ability to shatter the fragile five to four balance that currently protects women's access to safe and legal abortion in the United States.
President Bush has a record of nominating extreme judges who do not share the views of most Americans when making lifetime appointments to the federal bench. Appellate court nominees such as Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and William Pryor have shown an overwhelming hostility to Roe and safe and legal abortion, and are clearly unfit to serve on the federal courts. NAF was very concerned that these extreme anti-choice nominees were approved as a part of a recent deal to avert the "nuclear option" which would have eliminated the filibuster as a tool for opposing extreme nominees. However, Senators made it clear that a filibuster would be used in "extraordinary circumstances," including a vacancy on the Supreme Court. NAF believes that "extraordinary circumstances" exist for any nominee who would vote to overturn Roe. In the event that the President challenges the Senate's compromise, NAF urges a bipartisan filibuster to defeat such an extreme nominee.
President Bush has expressed his admiration for current Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, both of whom believe Roe should be overturned. Justice Scalia has called Roe "plainly wrong" and compares abortion to polygamy, incest, and suicide. Justice Thomas has consistently voted against the protections of privacy and a woman's right to choose and has called the Roe decision "grievously wrong." The next Supreme Court Justice should not reflect these extreme views.
Recent polls show that most Americans desire a moderate judiciary and believe that nominees' positions on various issues including reproductive rights are relevant when considering a nominee. Polls also show that Americans believe appointments to the Supreme Court are so important that it should take a consensus of at least 60 of 100 Senators to approve a nominee, and that they oppose nominees who would weaken privacy protections and the rights of women. Senators have an obligation to thoroughly examine the record of any nominee and fully evaluate their views on any number of issues, including a woman's right to choose.
It is essential that President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court respect the established precedent of Roe v. Wade and honor the United States Constitution's protection of a woman's right to a safe and legal abortion. As the professional association of abortion providers, we know that the continued weakening of Roe or its outright reversal would severely impact the lives and health of millions of women. We urge the President to respect the wishes of Americans and offer the Senate a nominee who respects a woman's right to choose.