Make no mistake. This is about abortion. It is about whether or not the ruinous reign of Roe will soon come to an end or continue for another generation.
On this question, Sen. Arlen Specter, now engaged in a desperate campaign to win the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, could not be more clear. Roe v. Wade, he announced during his campaign, must remain “inviolate.”
For Specter, the most divisive, unfounded, and destructive High Court ruling in American history is as permanent a part of our nation’s legal landscape as Brown v. Board of Education. The right to dismember unborn children is, for him, the judicial equivalent of ending racial segregation in public schools. When it comes to abortion, the “moderate” senator from Pennsylvania is unbending. As he put it in his post-election self-disclosure, “That is my view, now, before and always.”
So, if Senate Republicans give him the gavel, this famously independent senator will be empowered to scuttle the judicial nominees of a president who won re-election in part on his promise to make ours a culture in which unborn children are “welcomed in life and protected in law.”
If made chairman, Specter will doubtless do to any High Court nominee who threatens Roe what he did 17 years ago to Robert Bork. Back then, Roe was at risk because a Justice Bork would tip the Court to a pro-life majority. He would have been the fifth vote needed in 1992 to overturn Roe when the Court issued its opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
That didn’t happen, thanks in no small part to Specter. He joined the Borking chorus and labeled one of America’s most brilliant legal minds “extreme.” For Specter, Bork’s view that the Constitution ought to be interpreted according to the original intent of its authors was beyond the pale.
And while he is noticeably mum about the Bork episode now as he bids for the chairmanship, Specter bragged about his nasty treatment of Bork during his campaign. “I not only voted against Bork, I led the charge against him,” he said in October.
Specter invites us to examine his record. He said he has supported every one of President Bush’s judicial nominees. He claims he has no pro-life litmus test. Well, in 1987, when it mattered, when Roe was imperiled, Specter broke ranks and joined the opposition. In 1986, when it didn’t matter, when the pro-Roe majority remained safe, he voted to put Antonin Scalia on the High Court – someone arguably more conservative and outspoken than Bork. And someone who, like Bork, thinks the text and original meaning of the Constitution, not contemporary attitudes, should govern its interpretation. That was evidently OK with Specter in 1986. The next year it was “extreme.”
President Bush made a costly mistake last spring when he campaigned for Specter against his pro-life opponent in the Republican Senate primary. With the president’s help, Specter squeaked by in the primary contest, winning by one percent. The president helped secure the re-election of a man whose uncompromising commitment to abortion rights trumps all else, including what political loyalty, if any, he has for the president.
Now Senate Republicans are considering whether to imitate Bush’s mistake by making Specter chairman of the Judiciary committee. Pro-life Republicans are pondering whether to hand power to a man who thinks the Court’s abortion ruling is untouchable and sacrosanct. Would someone remind me, please, which party was it they called the “stupid party?”
After 31 years of abortion on demand in America, the “values voters” who helped put George Bush back in the White House have every reason to expect a pro-life Supreme Court majority by 2008. President Bush, who said we should seek a “society that values life from its very beginnings to its natural end,” may fill up to four High Court vacancies in the next four years.
The end of Roe is at hand – just as it was in 1987. But if Arlen Specter becomes chairman, it will be Bork II all over again and who knows how many more million unborn children will die.