Abortion Rights Group Anticipates Big Battle to Come

Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:04pm EDT
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(CNSNews.com) - If Chief Justice William Rehnquist does retire soon, as he hinted he might, "you can rest assured that George Bush will not have a free pass to replace him with another anti-choice judicial activist," an abortion rights group said Wednesday.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, which describes itself as the nation's leading advocate of personal privacy and a woman's right to choose, has pledged an aggressive campaign to block any "out-of-the-mainstream nominee."

"Any new Supreme Court justice will have a profound impact on the future of privacy rights and reproductive freedom in this country," said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Kate Michelman in a press release.

She said the idea that President Bush might try to elevate Justice Anthony Scalia or Justice Clarence Thomas to the chief justice job would be "especially troubling."

"Pro-choice Americans will fight with every tool at our disposal and every ounce of energy we possess to protect Roe vs. Wade for future generations," Michelman said.

She said a retirement this year would be particularly critical, since several direct challenges to Roe v. Wade may reach the Supreme Court in the near future.

One of those challenges may come from South Dakota, where a bill declaring that life begins at conception will be signed by the state's governor -- if the state legislature agrees to make some minor, technical changes, the governor said Tuesday.

NARAL Pro-Choice America said legislatures in five states are considering measures that would "effectively outlaw abortion outright." The press release also detailed other challenges that may galvanize pro-choice Americans.

According to Michelman, news of a potential Supreme Court retirement may increase participation in the "March for Women's Lives" in Washington, D.C., on April 25. "At times like this, it is more important than ever that the pro-choice majority stand up and make our voices heard," she said.

"We must make sure that the President, and every U.S. Senator, understands how passionate Americans are about keeping a pro-choice majority on the Supreme Court."

While abortion advocacy groups are passionate about keeping a pro-choice majority on the courts, a number of recent polls indicate that a growing number of Americans identify themselves as pro-life.

A December 2003 Zogby International poll said the public -- by a 53-36 percent margin - supports the statement, "Abortion destroys a human life and is manslaughter."

A June 2003 Gallup poll found that a majority (53 percent) of Americans believe that abortion is morally wrong, while only 37 percent find it morally acceptable.

President Bush is a strong pro-life advocate, and groups such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood have worked hard, along with Senate Democrats, to block most of his federal judicial appointments.

The bitter battles over Bush's judicial nominees are widely viewed as dress rehearsals for the biggest fight of all -- the one that will ensure when and if President Bush must nominate a Supreme Court Justice.

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