Liberals have broadened their attack on federal Judge John G. Roberts Jr. beyond just his position on abortion to include accusations of a more general hostility toward women and privacy.
The new strategy comes weeks after NARAL Pro-Choice America withdrew a television ad when critics and allies alike condemned the piece for unfairly accusing Judge Roberts of supporting an abortion clinic bomber.
"John Roberts repeatedly expressed hostility to affirmative action and efforts to remedy the sharp disparities between the wages of women and men," Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way, said yesterday.
More alarming to him and other liberals, Mr. Neas said, is that Judge Roberts' views "are sharply at odds with those of the justice he has been nominated to succeed, Sandra Day O'Connor."
Broadly speaking, liberals say Judge Roberts wants to limit "reproductive freedom" for women, undo women's "right to privacy" and discard remedies aimed at "gender equity," Mr. Neas said at the National Press Club.
Just down the hall, a group of conservative women gathered to defend Judge Roberts against the attacks, which they said are still about only one issue: abortion.
"For too long, far-leftist organizations consumed with only one agenda -- the pro-abortion agenda -- have claimed they represent all women in general," said Connie Mackey of the conservative Family Research Council. "Message number one: They do not."
Mrs. Mackey directed most of her remarks at Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and the only female member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel which will hold hearings on the Roberts pick next month.
"The women you see here today represent the mainstream of women in America who are bright, smart and want competent people on the Supreme Court who will interpret the Constitution, not legislate from the bench," she said. "They want a fair, timely up-or-down vote on one of the most qualified nominees ever presented in the history of the court."
Mrs. Feinstein said in a speech yesterday that "it would be very difficult for me to vote to confirm someone to the Supreme Court whom I know would overturn Roe v. Wade and return our country to the days of the 1950s."
Roe v. Wade is the 1973 Supreme Court case that made abortion a constitutional right.
"I remember what it was like then when abortion was illegal," Mrs. Feinstein said. "When I was a college student, I watched the passing of the plate to collect money so young women could go to Tijuana for an abortion. I knew a woman who ended her life because she was pregnant."
People for the American Way, which yesterday officially declared against confirming Judge Roberts, issued a 50-page report on its stance.
"He supported the legality of radical proposals to strip the courts of jurisdiction over certain school desegregation remedies, abortion, and school prayer," the report says. "He denigrated what he referred to as the 'so-called' right to privacy, resisted attempts to fully restore the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act, and worked against measures aimed at increasing gender equity."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, endorsed Judge Roberts.
"Roberts has attracted broad, bipartisan support for his fairness, keen intellect, open-mindedness and judicious practice of the law," chamber President Thomas Donohue said. "He is highly regarded and well respected by the legal and business communities."
Meanwhile, Judiciary Committee Democrats scolded Judge Roberts -- who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit -- for not recusing himself from the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case, about the Bush administration's right to designate persons as enemy combatants.
"As you disclosed in your written responses to the Judiciary Committee's questionnaire, you had an interview with Attorney General Gonzales a week before the Hamdan appeal was argued and at least two more interviews with White House officials between the argument and the release of panel's opinion on July 15, 2005," Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer of New York and Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin wrote.