Leading women’s groups, including the Feminist Majority, held a press conference at the US Capitol today on John Roberts’ role in a clinic violence case in the early 1990s, when Roberts was deputy solicitor general under the first Bush Administration. The case, Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic, involved Operation Rescue-led blockades of clinics in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. Roberts co-authored the amicus brief and argued the case twice before the Supreme Court (in 1991 and 1992) on behalf of Operation Rescue and six named petitioners, including Michael Bray, a convicted clinic bomber.
At the time of the Bray case, some 50 percent of clinics nationwide were experiencing severe violence. Susan Hill, president of the National Women’s Health Organization, testified to the violence and harassment experienced by clinic workers and patients around the time of the Bray case. By 1991, her nine clinics had experienced 16 firebombings and 500 death threats. In addition, clinic workers and their families were stalked on their way to work, to school, to daycare, and more.
“Roberts clearly did not have the vision to see the importance of a strong federal role in combating nationwide domestic terrorism,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Instead of supporting federal judges who were granting injunctions to combat escalating violence, the first Bush Administration was undercutting their authority. Roberts was a political appointee and a legal policy maker. We must assume Roberts was an architect of the Bush Administration’s laissez faire stance toward protecting women’s clinics, patients, and health care workers.”
Many of the groups involved in the press conference have come out opposing Roberts, including the National Abortion Federation (NAF), NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the National Organization for Women (NOW). “We believe Roberts has sufficiently demonstrated that he puts ideology ahead of the facts,” said Kim Gandy, president of NOW. Other speakers included Vicki Saporta, president of NAF; Karen Pearl, interim president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Marcia Greenberger, president of the National Women’s Law Center; Lorraine Cole, president of the Black Women’s Health Imperative; and Shelly Pacheco, a clinic provider in Washington state whose clinic was arsoned early this year.