The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next Tuesday on President Bush’s nomination of the ultra conservative Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Nominated in May 2001, Owen is “considered by legal analysts in Texas to be among the most conservative members of the Texas Supreme Court, which, in turn, is considered one of the nation’s most conservative supreme courts, according to the New York Times.
Based on a consistent record on the Texas Supreme Court of rulings that kept young women from bypassing the Texas requirement of parental notification for abortion, the Feminist Majority opposes Owen as a judicial nominee. Until her nomination to the Fifth Circuit, Justice Owen ruled against every minor who tried to utilize the judicial bypass provision of Texas’ parental notification statute. Her rulings attempt to infuse the parental notification law with her own her conservative standards. For example, Justice Owen would require a young woman seeking judicial bypass to show that that she is aware that there are religious arguments that can be brought to bear when considering abortion. The Texas parental notification statute contains no requirement that a young woman consider religion in her decision to have or not have an abortion.
As a member of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, one of Owen’s responsibilities would be to determine if regulations passed by Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas create an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. Expressing concerns that she could seriously jeopardize a women’s right to choose, the National Abortion Federation and People for the American Way join the Feminist Majority in opposing Owen. The National Abortion and Reproductive Action League (NARAL), National Organization for Women (NOW) and Planned Parenthood Federation of America have also expressed concerns about Owen’s record on reproductive rights.