- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Supreme Court decision upholding a federal ban on partial-birth abortion predictably pleased the Republican presidential contenders and disappointed Democratic candidates.

To the Republicans it was “a step forward” and “correct”; to the Democrats it was “alarming” and a “dramatic departure.” But partisans on both sides agreed the decision is the beginning, not the end, of the abortion debate in the 2008 campaign.

“This decision marks a dramatic departure from four decades of Supreme Court rulings that upheld a woman’s right to choose and recognized the importance of women’s health,” said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat and the perceived front-runner for Democrats’ presidential nomination.

She had “warned of precisely this erosion of our constitutional rights” when she voted against both of President Bush’s Supreme Court nominees, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The Republicans, all of whom have said they would nominate judges like Justices Alito and Roberts, called the decision a victory for pro-life advocates.

“This decision represents a step forward in protecting the weakest and most innocent among us,” said Republican Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts.

Abortion has been a defining issue for both political parties since the Supreme Court declared abortion a federal constitutional right.

Jim Backlin, vice president for legislative affairs at the Christian Coalition, said conservatives will focus next on the 2008 presidential race as the way to finish the job and finally overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The next president will likely pick the Supreme Court nominee who could tip the court their direction, he said.

“As soon as there is one more reliable [justice], that’ll be five votes to overturn Roe,” he said.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the decision vindicated the 2004 victory of Mr. Bush and “shows that elections have consequences.” Since conservatives “know that next vacancy is just so incredibly important,” Mr. Backlin said, they will work hard for almost any Republican presidential candidate, except Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York.

Mr. Giuliani had much at stake in yesterday’s ruling because he has been on both sides of the partial-birth abortion debate. Yesterday he said the court’s ruling was “the correct conclusion,” adding, “I agree with it.”

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, called the ruling “a victory for those who cherish the sanctity of life and integrity of the judiciary. As we move forward, it is critically important that our party continues to stand on the side of life.”

The presidential campaign of Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, sent out a statement that praised yesterday’s ruling and also touted Mr. Brownback as “the leading pro-life voice” in Congress. “I’m delighted that the Supreme Court is moving forward to see the expression of life in the Constitution,” Mr. Brownback said.

Pro-choice groups, such as Emily’s List, which has endorsed Mrs. Clinton, cited the decision as a reason to focus their members’ attention on 2008.

“This decision will even further motivate Democratic voters, particularly women, to elect a pro-choice Democratic president in 2008,” said Ellen R. Malcolm, president of the group.

Others used it to seek financial support for advocacy. Planned Parenthood posted a Web site message soliciting donations to help its “response to the Supreme Court’s reckless decision.”

Former Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat and a candidate for president, said he “could not disagree more strongly” with the ruling and warned: “This hard right turn is a stark reminder of why Democrats cannot afford to lose the 2008 election.”

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, a Democratic presidential seeker, said the ruling “signals an alarming willingness” by the conservative majority to disregard prior rulings and he is “extremely concerned” that it will prompt further restrictions on abortion.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada sided with pro-choice advocates yesterday by criticizing the high court’s decision and yearning for the previous court that backed partial-birth abortion. “I would only say that this isn’t the only decision a lot of us wish that Alito weren’t there and [former Justice Sandra Day] O’Connor were there.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said she is “disappointed” by the ruling, which she called “a significant step backwards.” Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, promised to reintroduce a bill today that would codify Roe v. Wade in federal legislation. The National Abortion Federation endorsed Mr. Nadler’s bill and urged the Democratic majority in Congress to enact it at once.

• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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