Roberts' words give abortion foes reason to be wary

August 09, 2005|By Stephen G. Peroutka

`ROE VS. WADE is the settled law of the land. ... There's nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent."

Thus spoke Judge John G. Roberts Jr. at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2003. Many abortion opponents will be asked to forget that statement in the coming months. We'll be told that those words are overshadowed by his actions. It was barely 12 hours after President Bush nominated Judge Roberts for the Supreme Court seat held by retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and I was already feeling lonely.

Many pro-life and religious leaders are ignoring Judge Roberts' 2003 statement. We are being told that Judge Roberts is pro-life and a strict constructionist and that he has co-written briefs arguing the pro-life cause. But it's tough for me to forget those words.

In the next few months, people will tell you that such pledges must be made by any prospective federal court jurist. We'll be told, "He doesn't really mean that. He just has to say that to be confirmed." I wonder if such a confirmation process is worthy of our government or produces a worthy nominee who acquiesces to it? Must our judicial nominees answer questions with a "wink and nod"? I hope not.

Other pro-life and religious leaders will urge us to ignore the "wink and nod" nuance of the judge's statement, arguing that it is, indeed, legitimate - that it's a valid pro-life statement within its four corners. Some may argue that it's our duty to uphold any law that's written - that it is right and proper to say that although we do not agree with a particular law, it is our duty to carry out that law, no matter how unjust.

If we believe this, then we owe a great apology to the defendants at Nuremberg. In the years after World War II, we declared that men can't hide behind unjust laws. We declared that the laws of nature and nature's God take precedence over unjust decrees, even when those decrees are wrapped in the guise of law. After Nuremberg, this nation and other nations have repeatedly seconded the motion that right and wrong come to us from God and not from the order of a despot or the whim of a majority.

And so again I ponder Judge Roberts' words. I cannot act like he never said it. I can't nuance it away or explain it away as proper reaction to an unjust law.

In the next few months, it's going to get lonely for some pro-lifers. Every bone in my body wants to join the wave that I think is coming. That wave will express great satisfaction with President Bush and his nominee.

We will be told that NARAL hates him, so shouldn't we love him? Maybe I will come to love him. Maybe I will come to believe that Judge Roberts is the first step in bringing this country back to a respect for life. Perhaps Judge Roberts will be the liberator of the doomed unborn whose numbers still exceed 1 million per year in the United States alone. Perhaps you'll see me on that bandwagon. But not right now.

The NARALs, the NOWs, the Edward M. Kennedys and the Charles E. Schumers of the world, who all believe that Judge Roberts is more pro-life than Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul II combined, can be relied on for one thing: By the end of their questioning, Judge Roberts will reveal himself as either a bona fide pro-life strict constructionist or as just another in a long line of Republican-nominated supporters of the culture of death.

I pray that the judge's words in the coming confirmation hearings will help me come to trust him with the fates of all those unborn children. The ball is in your court, Judge Roberts. Please convince me.

Stephen G. Peroutka is chairman of the National Pro-Life Action Center (NPLAC) and a Maryland attorney.

Columnist Trudy Rubin is on vacation.

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