- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2005

A pro-choice group yesterday said it would withdraw its television ad that accused federal Judge John G. Roberts Jr. of supporting an abortion clinic bomber.

“We regret that many people have misconstrued our recent advertisement about Mr. Roberts’ record,” Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, wrote in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter.

Mr. Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who favors abortion rights, had called NARAL’s 30-second ad “blatantly untrue and unfair” for suggesting that Judge Roberts supported “violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber” in a case nearly 15 years ago.

“Unfortunately, the debate over that advertisement has become a distraction from the serious discussion we hoped to have with the American public,” Ms. Keenan said in her letter to Mr. Specter late yesterday.

She said her group will replace the ad with one that “examines Mr. Roberts’ record on several points, including his advocacy for overturning Roe v. Wade, his statement questioning the right to privacy and his arguments against using a federal civil rights law to protect women and their doctors and nurses from those who use blockades and intimidation.”

The original ad has been airing on broadcast television in Maine and Rhode Island and on CNN. NARAL originally had announced that it would spend $500,000 to run the ad for two weeks.

Judge Roberts, recently nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bush, was a principal deputy solicitor general in 1991 when he helped prepare the federal government’s response to a lawsuit involving protests at a Virginia abortion clinic.

In his letter to Ms. Keenan, Mr. Specter defended the nominee’s action in that case.

“Judge Roberts did not act improperly in his advocacy before the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the plaintiffs could not sue under an 1871 Act designed to protect African-Americans from actions of the Ku Klux Klan,” Mr. Specter wrote. “In fact, as we have learned from documents recently released by the White House, Judge Roberts has unequivocally stated that those individuals who violently target abortion clinics ‘should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.’ ”

Mr. Specter, often a thorn in the sides of conservative Republicans, is a tireless supporter of abortion rights and received a 100 percent rating from NARAL in 2002. That same year, he got a zero rating from the National Right to Life Committee. In 2004, however, when Mr. Specter faced a tight re-election race, his NARAL rating dropped to 21 percent.

Mr. Specter also chastised NARAL and other advocacy groups for claiming to have an influence in Supreme Court confirmation fights. He invoked the failed 1987 Supreme Court nomination of federal Judge Robert H. Bork, whom Mr. Specter proudly opposed. Many conservatives still have not forgiven him for opposing Judge Bork, who said the Constitution does not include abortion rights.

“Judge Bork, for example, was not defeated by the media campaign against him, but by his own testimony,” Mr. Specter wrote yesterday.

Mr. Specter also advised Ms. Keenan that the original ad was ineffective.

“May I also suggest that the NARAL advertisement is not helpful to the pro-choice cause which I support,” he wrote. “When NARAL puts on such an advertisement, in my opinion, it undercuts its credibility and injures the pro-choice cause.”

Conservatives had urged Democratic leaders in the Senate to join Mr. Specter’s call for a withdrawal of the ad.

“Individuals and organizations across the entire political spectrum have criticized the group for the misleading TV ad it is now running,” a coalition of conservative groups said in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “[B]ut so far Democratic Party leaders have been silent on the issue, giving the appearance of putting politics before principle.”

Mr. Reid, who is pro-life, declined to condemn the ad and through a spokeswoman said the “confirmation process will ultimately be decided by those in the Senate.”

“Emotions are running high on all sides,” said Reid spokeswoman Rebecca Kirszner. “The fact is confirming a Supreme Court justice for a lifetime appointment is one of the most important decisions a senator will make.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, did not comment on the ad, but echoed its charges this week in a speech at San Francisco’s Golden Gate University law school.

“Roberts sided with some of the nation’s most violent anti-choice extremists,” she said, according to the text of the speech posted on her Senate Web site.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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