So-called “mainstream” Republicans should have no doubts about the absolute control the far religious right now holds in their party. After caving to right wing pressure and forcing Harriet Miers to withdraw her nomination, President Bush has quickly come back with the nominee they wanted all along, Judge Samuel Alito.
President Bush today named appeals court Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court. Alito, 55, serves on the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where his record on abortion rights and church-state issues has been widely applauded by conservatives and criticized by liberals.
Alito, appointed to the appeals court in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, has been a regular for years on the White House’s short list for the high court. He was also among those proposed by conservative intellectuals as an alternative to Harriet Miers, the White House counsel who withdrew as the nominee last week.
Some Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), have threatened to oppose Alito, however. Immediately after the announcement, the liberal activist organization People for the American Way announced the launch of a “massive national effort” to prevent Alito’s confirmation.
This is a judge who is clearly on the record against abortion, most notoriously for having written a dissenting opinion supporting a Pennsylvania law that would have required women to notify their husbands before obtaining an abortion. His opinion was directly rebuffed by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who he would replace.
The case ultimately reached the Supreme Court, which upheld the appeals court decision, disagreed with Alito and used the case to reaffirm its support for Roe v. Wade , the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.
On the spousal notification provision, O’Connor wrote for the court that it did indeed constitute an obstacle. The “spousal notification requirement is . . . likely to prevent a significant number of women from obtaining an abortion,” she wrote.
“It does not merely make abortions a little more difficult or expensive to obtain; for many women, it will impose a substantial obstacle. We must not blind ourselves to the fact that the significant number of women who fear for their safety and the safety of their children are likely to be deterred from procuring an abortion as surely as if the Commonwealth had outlawed abortion in all cases,” she said.
Plus, it “embodies a view of marriage consonant with the common law status of married women, but repugnant to our present understanding of marriage and of the nature of the rights secured by the Constitution. Women do not lose their constitutionally protected liberty when they marry, ” she said.
“The Constitution protects all individuals, male or female, married or unmarried, from the abuse of governmental power, even where that power is employed for the supposed benefit of a member of the individual’s family.”
We’ll learn more about Alito in the coming days, but what we know now isn’t promising. We cannot allow the religious right to pack the bench with justices that would permit the nation to slide down a path towards The Handmaiden’s Tale. The President serves all Americans, not just those extremists who control his party, and he has an obligation to appoint justices who are not only qualified, but who reflect the beliefs and philosophies of the American people. If the Bush administration insists on playing a winner takes all game with the Supreme Court, then Democrats should adopt the same adversarial attitude.
If Alito proves unacceptable, the Democrats must filibuster.