Monday, November 3, 2008

The Future of the Supreme Court and Its Impact on Abortion Rights

USA Today: Abortion Debate Central for Some Voters, by Joan Biskupic:

Justice John McCain's and Barack Obama's dueling statements on abortion rights have ratcheted up debate over the future of Roe v. Wade at a time when the Supreme Court could be at a crossroads on the 1973 decision that made abortion legal nationwide.

A five-justice majority appears ready to reaffirm the decision. That is a change from national election cycles in the past decade-and-a-half when at least six justices, including now-retired Sandra Day O'Connor, supported abortion rights. A single court appointee could decide whether abortion laws become more restrictive or more permissive and whether Roe v. Wade remains the law.

In the last week of the campaign, that point is not lost on advocates in the abortion debate.

"This is a historic election," says Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life. "With the next president having the opportunity to appoint one, two or even more justices," she adds, the election could change the law "on the life issue."

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, says: "The public gets it. They have seen it in recent cases. They see it with John McCain, who has been far more specific about the overturning of Roe than George Bush was" in the 2000 election.

The abortion controversy looms over state elections, too, in South Dakota, Colorado and California, where ballot measures propose to ban or limit abortion. South Dakota's proposal is the most restrictive, seeking to outlaw abortion except for cases of rape, incest and serious threat to the woman's health. If approved, it could become a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.

NPR Examines McCain's, Obama's Views on Judicial Appointments:

In a two-part series, NPR's "All Things Considered" looked at how judicial appointments by the next President could change the balance of the Supreme Court. Summaries appear below.

Npr McCain Presidency: Unless some younger members of the court's conservative majority retire or die unexpectedly, conservatives will keep their upper hand on most issues before the court. However, if McCain is elected president, the Supreme Court will "likely become yet more conservative" and "conservatives will solidify their control for another generation," NPR reports. Two vacancies -- the spots currently occupied by liberal justices John Paul Stevens and David Souter -- are widely expected in the next few years. Because the departing justices are from the "liberal wing" of the court "replacing them with liberals wouldn't make any difference, at least in terms of generic vote counting," NPR reports. Conservative appointments to replace Stevens and Souter "would strengthen the conservative majority to six to three or seven to two," NPR reports. In addition, conservative appointments would mean that the conservative majority would not have to rely on Kennedy to support them, nor would they have to moderate conservative opinions to appease Kennedy (Totenberg, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/29).

Obama Presidency: Brad Berenson -- a former associate White House counsel under the current Bush administration who also worked with Obama as an editor at the Harvard Law Review -- said Obama's knowledge of the courts is greater than McCain's, NPR reports. Berenson said Obama "has thought far more about courts and constitutional issues than [McCain] has, and that may mean that a President Obama takes more personal interest and more of a personal hand in his judicial appointments than a President McCain would." Obama's views on Constitutional law, as expressed in his book "The Audacity of Hope," give insight into how he would view appointments to the Supreme Court, NPR reports, adding that in the book he argues that the "Constitution speaks in generalities that cannot tell us what the founders would have thought about modern dilemmas" (Totenberg, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/30).

2008 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Abortion Bans, Supreme Court | Permalink

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