Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (1981-2006)
Justice Sandra O'Connor has played a very influential role on the Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. In both Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Stenberg v. Carhart (Carhart I), O'Connor's single vote in support of a woman's right to choose ensured the survival of Roe v. Wade.
Justice O'Connor, with Justices Kennedy and Souter, wrote the controlling plurality opinion in Casey which upheld a woman's right to a safe and legal abortion in a case many feared would overturn Roe v. Wade:
"After considering the fundamental constitutional questions resolved by Roe, principles of institutional integrity, and the rule of stare decisis, we are led to conclude this: the essential holding of Roe v. Wade should be retained and once again reaffirmed."
"Some of us as individuals find abortion offensive to our most basic principles of morality, but that cannot control our decision. Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code."
While Justice O'Connor's opinions have changed in the way abortion cases are analyzed, lowering the standard of review from strict scrutiny to an undue burden analysis, she has prevented the conservative members of the Supreme Court from destroying the central provisions of Roe.
In Stenberg v.Carhart (Carhart I), the Court's most recent decision concerning abortion rights, Justice O'Connor joined Justice Breyer's majority opinion affirming Roe and Casey:
"...[t]his Court, in the course of a generation, has determined and then redetermined that the Constitution offers basic protection to the woman's right to choose. We shall not revisit those legal principles."
In Hill v. Colorado, Justice O'Connor voted uphold Colorado's law creating a buffer zone around health facilities. Inside the 100-foot buffer zone, a patient cannot be approached within eight feet without consent for the purpose of leafleting, displaying a sign, or engaging in conversation.
Women retain the right to choose by a fragile one-vote margin. Replacing Justice O'Connor, who has consistently voted to uphold reproductive freedom, with an anti-choice justice could result in the demise of women's access to safe and legal abortion. For more information about potential nominees to the Supreme Court, please visit Bush's Ideal Supreme Court Justices.