The Senate confirmation hearing in John Ashcroft’s bid for Attorney General continues today, with protestors again crowded outside the Russell Senate building, opposing the nomination of this anti-choice, anti-woman, anti-civil rights politician. At yesterday’s hearing, Ashcroft faced a barrage of questions from Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) regarding Ashcroft’s poor record on civil rights. Today, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) questioned Ashcroft on his commitment to upholding Roe v. Wade and the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE). When Feinstein asked whether Ashcroft would prioritize investigating and prosecuting cases of violence against abortion clinics and staff, Ashcroft hesitated before giving his answer, saying that he would uphold the law as it stands. He did not testify as to what he would actively pursue as attorney general in regards to clinic violence and abortion rights.
Yesterday, several Democratic Senators expressed concern over Ashcroft’s ability to enforce laws that conflicted with his personal and religious views, despite the fact that Ashcroft argued that, as Governor and as Attorney General of Missouri, he did uphold laws on abortion. Ashcroft’s voting record on abortion is overwhelmingly anti-choice; he is opposed to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, and is opposed to most forms of contraception. He has repeatedly used his political position to further an extremist conservative view.
Yesterday, New York Senator Charles Schumer asked, “When you have been such a zealous and impassioned advocate for so long, how do you just turn it off? This may be an impossible task.” Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) stressed that the hearing would focus not on Ashcroft’s beliefs alone, but on how his beliefs would color the choices he will have to make as attorney general. “We will want to know what changes he will seek in the constitutional rights that Americans currently enjoy. These include what positions he would urge upon the Supreme Court; in particular, whether he’d ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade or to impose more burdensome restrictions on a woman’s ability to secure safe and legal contraceptives,” Leahy said.
Scheduled to testify today is Ronnie White, a black, pro-choice nominee for the Missouri Supreme Court. Ashcroft vehemently opposed his confirmation.