Here is the unvarnished truth: By whatever means employed, the GOP has control over the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the US federal government. This reality means progressives have many reasons to toss and turn at night, among them the fight for reproductive rights. As New York Newsday notes, American women are one Supreme Court justice away from disaster:
Anyone who thinks abortion rights aren’t in serious jeopardy should consider the plight of Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
Specter has been a Republican for 40 years. He’s in line to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January. He has voted to confirm every single one of … George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. Despite that record, angry conservatives are determined to block his rise to chairman. Why?
Because Specter supports abortion rights. And because he had the temerity to state the obvious: That Bush would have trouble winning Senate confirmation of any Supreme Court nominee who is notoriously anti-abortion rights. That’s a simple mathematical fact.
It takes only 51 of 100 Senate votes to confirm a judicial nominee. But it takes 60 votes to cut off debate and move to a confirmation vote. Come January, there will be 55 Republicans in the Senate. Do the math. That’s not enough to derail a determined Democratic filibuster. Specter said he was alluding to that numerical reality when he made the remark that has haunted him all week.
But conservative foes of abortion rights have been emboldened by the perception that they provided Bush’s margin of victory Nov. 2. They aren’t of a mind to tolerate even the barest hint of resistance to their agenda, which is reversal of Roe v. Wade. That would be a tragedy. It would strip women of the right to control their bodies and turn the clock back to the grisly days of back-alley abortions.
After years of frustrating Democratic rule followed by a gridlocked Congress under Bush, [conservative Christian fundamentalist leaders] now hold daily conference calls and meetings to review a long legislative wish list: conservative judicial appointments, a federal amendment banning gay marriage, abortion restrictions, tougher obscenity laws, school vouchers, a ban on all human cloning. And they’re counting on Bush to deliver. “We’re going to strike out and demand a conservative agenda,” says direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie. “If we don’t do it now, when do we do it?”
What happens, in large part, is up to the Shrub and how he deals with the phenomenon of “activist judges.” According to many Republicans, certain judges who reinterpret constitutional law — those who disagree with GOP philosophy — are a danger to the nation. Arguably, without “activist judges,” there would be no marriage equality in Massachusetts. Of course, if a judge wants to repeal the law allowing women control over their own bodies, that isn’t “activism,” to many GOP members. That judge, in their eyes, is a patriot.
Michael Kinsley, in the Los Angeles Times, states the question of the hour:
Judges make decisions and impose their will all the time. That’s their job. When does this generally salutary activity turn into the dread judicial activism?
The GOP hue and cry against activist judges is nothing more than hypocrisy. More from Kinsley:
Republicans cheer … when courts overturn state or federal — or even private — affirmative action programs, and they boo when such programs are allowed to continue unmolested. They have great hopes — largely unrealized, so far — for the “takings” clause of the 5th Amendment as a tool for overturning environmental regulations or any other government policies that may reduce the value of someone’s property. …
And let’s not forget that the Bush administration owes its very existence to the boldest act of judicial activism in a generation: the Supreme Court ruling that settled the 2000 presidential election dispute.
And how’s about this for judicial activism: A Senate GOP effort is under way to rule Democratic filibusters against Bush’s judicial nominees as being in violation of the US Constitution.
The GOP has its sights set on Roe v. Wade and, sadly, the Shrub’s choices will decide what happens. Will he spend his political capital on Supreme Court nominees with an agenda to end legalized abortion? Or will he choose more moderate nominees who stand a chance of surviving confirmation proceedings in a very divided Senate?
Before we get the answers, pro-choice progressives need to be proactive.
NARAL Pro-Choice America is already on the case. The organization is doing opposition research to get the facts on potential nominees and keep non-GOP senators apprised and ready for necessary filibusters. You can help the effort, says a NARAL alert:
Put Bush on notice that you and all pro-choice Americans will not give up. Sign our petition to tell him that you’ll firmly oppose any Supreme Court nominee who doesn’t support Roe v. Wade, then spread the word to your pro-choice friends and family.
Planned Parenthood is at work as well and asks for your assistance in letting “Dear W” know how we feel.
We all know “W” does not stand for women. So let President Bush know what you really think about his policies on women’s health and reproductive freedom. Write a personal letter and we’ll deliver it to [Dubya] Bush.
The fight isn’t over, but this one will not be easy to win. Any victory for women’s rights will have to circumvent Bush’s capital, GOP arrogance and hypocrisy, and the power of the Religious Wrong.
We have no time to worry — we must get active.