Despite Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito’s efforts to downplay his record of hostility to Roe v. Wade and women’s reproductive rights, fresh evidence emerged today showing Alito’s anti-choice activism during the Reagan Administration.
“This new document isn’t just a smoking gun. It’s a smoking cannon. The American people should have no doubt that Samuel Alito is poised to change more than 25 years of reproductive rights for women in America,” said Ralph G. Neas, President, People For the American Way. “As with Robert Bork in 1987, the best evidence against his confirmation is his written record over the past quarter of a century.”
As a Department of Justice lawyer in 1985, Alito argued that the Reagan Administration should file a friend-of the court brief in a case called Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. At issue was a Pennsylvania law that discouraged women from exercising their reproductive rights, and required doctors to submit detailed reports about their patients, including, private, non-medical information.
“The radical right for years has tried to take down Roe v. Wade through the front door – seeking outright reversal by the Supreme Court - and through the back door with outrageous state laws that invade personal privacy and erect insurmountable barriers to women seeking safe and legal abortions. This memo shows Alito advocating forcefully for both approaches,” said Neas. “The Supreme Court rebuffed his arguments in 1986. A Supreme Court with both Samuel Alito and John Roberts on the bench in 2006 would not.”
In the memo (available here), Alito advises the Administration to:
- file a brief in the case, even though the Administration was not a party to the suit, and had no role to play save for ideology.
- use the brief to promote “the goals of bringing about the eventual overturning of Roe v. Wade, and in the meantime, of mitigating its effects.”
- “make clear” to the Supreme Court that we “disagree with Roe v Wade,” and “would welcome” the opportunity to brief the issue of overturning it.
- support the tactic of using extremely restrictive state laws such as those in Pennsylvania to discourage women from seeking safe, legal abortions. (In fact, the Supreme Court said that provisions of the Pennsylvania law “comes close to being state medicine imposed upon the woman.”)
Neas noted that in a 1985 job application for a promotion in the Reagan Administration, Alito wrote that he was particularly proud of his anti-choice efforts, and that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to abortion. He reportedly sought to downplay that memo and its importance in a meeting with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), suggesting he was only applying for a job.
“Once again, Samuel Alito’s record demonstrates his eagerness to overturn effectively Roe v. Wade one way or another.,” said Neas. “Any remaining doubt that Samuel Alito would tip the balance of the Supreme Court against women’s reproductive health should be gone.”