September 19, 2005

NARAL/Planned Parenthood and the Roberts Confirmation Hearings

Joan Vennochi of the Boston Globe has an interesting column in the Boston Globe:

HELLO, NARAL? It is getting easier to ignore you. The same is true of Planned Parenthood.

These abortion rights advocates have not adjusted their tone or message to 21st century political realities. First obvious reality: George W. Bush, not John Kerry, won the last presidential election. With Bush in the White House, the best-case scenario for abortion rights supporters is a Supreme Court justice who agrees, at minimum, that there is a constitutionally protected right to privacy. That is the underpinning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision, which extended the privacy right to abortion.

During last week's confirmation hearings, John Roberts said there is such a privacy right.
It is also true that Roberts refused to state whether he believes that privacy right specifically includes a woman's right to abortion. But did NARAL Pro-Choice America or Planned Parenthood Federation of America really expect a Bush nominee to do that? Again, they got the best they could expect. Regarding Roe, Roberts said, ''It's settled as a precedent of the court, entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis" (Latin for ''to stand by that which is decided")...

Change or die is the motto of corporate America; it applies to liberal advocacy groups, too. NARAL got off to a terrible start with its campaign against Roberts when it released an ad that falsely sought to link Roberts to abortion clinic bombings. That ad was pulled. But its website and subsequent press releases, along with those of Planned Parenthood, continue a tone of forboding about what to expect from Roberts. They are urging senators to vote against him....Which gets us back to political reality. What did anyone expect from an antiabortion president?

Abortion rights supporters need a new, nonhysterical campaign that taps effectively into the country's continued backing for legalized abortion. These advocacy groups need to shed their shrewish image and find a way to connect with people who may not appreciate the right they have until it begins to be stripped away.

Otherwise, these advocacy groups bemoan themselves into irrelevancy

I remain pro-choice although, as I have written before, I am terribly uncomfortable with abortion. To characterize my position, I believe abortion should be safe and legal, but only used in very limited circumstances.

NARAL and Planned Parenthood have treated the Roberts confirmation hearings as if Judge Roberts had openly declared war on the right to privacy or the right to have an abortion. Clearly, he has not done so. Yet, the rhetoric by these groups is amazing. They have been strongly opposing Judge Roberts as if he were the second coming of Antonin Scalia.
It would be useful for these groups to remember the old parable of the boy who cried wolf. Save your claims of "extremism" for those nominees that really are extreme! Judge Roberts is certainly not an extremist nor is he as right-wing of a nominee as Bush could have selected. From what I can tell, Judge Roberts is conservative, but certainly not a member of the extreme religious right. Does this mean that he will not vote to overturn Roe? I cannot say for certain, however, let's keep in mind that he is replacing Rhenquist - definitely no fan of Roe v. Wade-and as such, Judge Roberts will not really change the current make-up of the court. Let's keep in mind that Rhenquist had a conservative court, yet never overturned Roe v. Wade.
Most people understood that the 2004 election was a crucial election because it was likely that one or more Supreme Court justices would need to be named. The Republicans won the election and, as a result, control the nominations to replace the two current vacancies. The Democrats and pro-choice advocates must understand that no Republican president is going to appoint a liberal judge (nor should he be expected to - after all, would we expect a Democratic president to nominate a conservative judge?) and should instead focus on making sure that the conservative nominees are qualified.
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