- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Pro-choice advocates say documents released this week from the National Archives suggest that federal Judge John G. Roberts Jr. would vote to curtail abortion rights if confirmed to the Supreme Court.

“We are gravely concerned this new information could indicate John Roberts holds a hostile position on the fundamental right to privacy,” Karen Pearl, interim president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said after reading a draft article Judge Roberts wrote in 1981 as a lawyer in the Reagan administration. “The draft article attacks the very bedrock of reproductive freedom.”

The 1981 draft article about judicial restraint raises deeper concerns for abortion-rights advocates because it questions the validity not of Roe v. Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court case that established abortion rights — but of an earlier case that established a “right to privacy” and is the foundation for Roe.

“All of us, for example, may heartily endorse a ‘right to privacy,’ ” Judge Roberts wrote in reference to the 1965 case Griswold v. Connecticut. “That does not, however, mean that courts should discern such an abstraction in the Constitution, arbitrarily elevate it over other constitutional rights and powers by attaching the label ‘fundamental,’ and then resort to it as, in the words of one of Justice [Hugo] Black’s dissents, ‘a loose, flexible, uncontrolled standard for holding laws unconstitutional.’ ”

Though Planned Parenthood formally has not announced opposition to Judge Roberts, the leading pro-choice group already has voiced concerns about other, previously known, arguments made by Judge Roberts.

In the 1991 Supreme Court case Rust v. Sullivan, for instance, Judge Roberts said that the administration of the first President Bush believed that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

In another case, Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic, he wrote a brief arguing that blockading abortion clinics does not amount to discrimination against women.

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released a poll yesterday suggesting that while abortion is the most publicized issue in the Supreme Court debate, it’s no more important to Americans than other issues.

Almost two-thirds, 63 percent, said Supreme Court decisions on abortion are very important, while 62 percent said high court decisions about detained terrorists’ rights are very important, according to the poll.

The poll also looked at public opinion on several issues that could come before the Supreme Court:

• Almost two-thirds, 65 percent, are opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade, but there also is public support for some restrictions on abortion. Almost three-fourths favor requiring women under age 18 to get parental consent before being allowed to get an abortion.

• By almost 2-1, people say it’s more important to conduct stem-cell research that may result in medical cures than it is to avoid destroying potential life of embryos involved in such research.

The results are based on separate surveys conducted July 13-17 among 1,502 adults and July 7-17 among 2,000 adults. The error margin is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, larger for subgroups.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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