The Senate Judiciary Committee could vote as early as tomorrow on President Bush’s nomination of ultra conservative, anti-abortion rights Judge Priscilla Owen to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) indicated that if he has the 10 votes needed to defeat Owen’s nomination, he could call for a vote. A New York Times editorial today condemns Owen as a “champion of big business, insurance companies and the religious right.” The Times also notes that, when Owen was a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, in numerous cases involving abortion she was “resourceful about finding reasons that, despite United States Supreme Court holdings and Texas case law, women should be denied the right to choose.”
The Judiciary committee held a hearing on Owen’s nomination in July in which she was closely questioned about her dissenting opinions in cases involving a Texas law that allows teenagers to seek the court’s permission for an abortion without having to tell their parents. Owen has been called too ideologically far to the right by even her conservative colleagues – one specific opinion in which she attempted to infuse the parental notification law with her own conservative standards was characterized by White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, who served with Owen on the Texas court, as “an unconscionable act of judicial activism.”
Owen was nominated by President Bush in May 2001 – another nominee to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Charles Pickering, was defeated for his conservative anti-abortion, anti-women’s rights views last spring. As a member of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Owen could substantially increase regulations in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas for women seeking abortions.
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