STATEMENT OF ELEANOR SMEAL President, Feminist Majority
Halfway through the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination of Samuel Alito to the US Supreme Court, women are still without straight answers or adequate explanations on critically important questions related to women’s rights and civil rights.
On a woman’s right to choose abortion, instead of answers, we are hearing a familiar refrain that Alito is a judge with “No Agenda” who will examine the issue of a woman’s right to choose abortion with an “Open Mind.”
We heard the exact same words from Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings. Just months after his confirmation to the high court, he joined a dissenting opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that made his position clear: “We believe that Roe was wrongly decided, and that it can and should be overruled consistently with our traditional approach to stare decisis in constitutional cases.”
We can learn a lot more by looking at what Alito refused to say on the abortion issue.
When asked on several occasions, most notably by Senators Schumer and Durbin, to answer direct questions on whether he still holds the view, as he stated in a 1985 job application, that “the Constitution does not protect the right to choose abortion,” he refused to distance himself from the statement.
Instead of giving straight answers on this question that is critically important to millions of American women, Alito merely regurgitated the same tired explanation of how a judge evaluates previously decided Supreme Court precedent.
He refused to go even as far as Chief Justice John Roberts went during his confirmation hearings, who at least made the statement that Roe v. Wade is “settled law,” before going on to discuss the process judges use to overrule precedent.
Alito was willing to distance himself from other previous statements on important issues. By refusing to tell us his view on the Constitution regarding abortion, Judge Alito is letting stand his 1985 position that he does not believe the Constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion.
Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, has been a leader in the movement for women’s equality for over 30 years, and is a veteran of struggles over Supreme Court nominations in Washington. She will be following the Alito nomination on her blog, The Smeal Report at www.msmagazine.com.