May 01, 2009
It is being widely reported that Justice Souter will retire from the Supreme Court at the end of its current term. President Obama will no doubt replace Souter with an equally liberal justice, after getting support from most of the Senate Republicans and all of the Senate Democrats. Thus, it is unlikely that Souter’s departure will change the balance of power on the Court.
But his resignation is a reminder, once again, of how pro-life voters have been used and betrayed by the Republican Party. Souter was appointed to the Court by George H. W. Bush, who repeatedly pledged to overturn Roe v Wade. But Souter was actually instrumental in preserving Roe, helping convince fellow Republican Anthony Kennedy to join him and Reagan appointee Sandra Day O’Connor in reaffirming Roe in Planned Parenthood v Casey, another decision, like Roe, confirming the Court’s current role as a de facto constitutional convention in permanent session. To make matters worse, Robert Novak reported in his terrific memoir Prince of Darkness that Bush Senior was aware of Souter’s opinion of Roe when he placed him on the Court. Souter’s role in preserving Roe thus represented a conscious betrayal of pro-life voters by Bush, a man whose own appointment to the vice presidency was Ronald Reagan’s biggest blunder.
But Souter’s role would not have been decisive in preserving Roe if Robert Bork had been confirmed by the Senate. If Bork had been confirmed, he would have been the fifth vote—together with William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Byron White, and Clarence Thomas—to overturn Roe and send the abortion issue back to the states, where it belongs. A major reason that Bork was not confirmed was the opposition to his nomination by Arlen Specter. If the GOP had been serious about overturning Roe, Specter would have been cut loose then and denied any funding by the national party. Instead, he enjoyed full support from the national party until this week, when he decided that it was time to join the Democrats. There has been no better cause in American politics in my lifetime than the pro-life movement. It is a tragedy that thanks to Souter, Specter, and their enablers in the GOP, pro-lifers have so little to show for their steadfast support for the GOP in every national election since 1980.
Daily updates with TM’s latest