January 22, 2008 is the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision recognizing that a woman’s constitutional right to privacy includes the right to choose to end a pregnancy. Without question, Roe is one of the leading examples, and certainly one of the most famous, of the Court’s vital role in protecting Americans’ individual rights and freedoms.
The controversy that has surrounded Roe since it was decided not only serves to underscore the importance of the Court, but also of the election of Presidents to nominate individuals to fill vacancies on the Court and senators who decide whether or not to confirm those nominees. For decades, Religious Right activists have clamored for the appointment of justices to the Court who would overturn Roe, and have supported presidential and Senate candidates who embrace that agenda. There can be little question that their voices have been heard by President Bush, who has made anti-choice ideology a virtual if not actual litmus test for his selection of federal judges.
With Bush nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito joining Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, it is quite likely that there are now four votes on the Court to overturn Roe. Indeed, Jeffery Toobin states in his recent book, The Nine, that conservatives seeking to “[r]everse Roe v. Wade and allow states to ban abortion” are “very close to total control. Within one vote, to be precise.”
The next president will likely to have one or more vacancies on the Court to fill. The major Republican presidential candidates have either declared that they are anti-choice or have already promised to nominate justices in the mold of the four right-wing conservatives already on the Court.
If nothing else, it is clear that when it comes to protecting individual rights, the Court matters. And so do elections.
The Save the Court campaign is a project of PFAW. Learn more about the campaign at SaveTheCourt.org.