Roberts’ Views on Privacy Raise Further Doubts


Contact: Josh Glasstetter or Nick Berning at People For the American Way

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Nominee Assails “So-Called” Right to Privacy

Articles today by the Bloomberg news service and the Washington Post documenting Supreme Court nominee John Roberts’ skepticism toward what he calls the “so-called” right to privacy add urgency to the need for Senators to get unequivocal answers about Roberts’ views on privacy and other constitutional rights, freedoms, and legal protections, People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas said today.

He released the following statement:

“Documents released from the National Archives raise new red flags about John Roberts’ respect for the fundamental right to privacy and a woman’s right to choose. The documents suggest Roberts believes that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to privacy.

“Coupled with what we already know about a brief Roberts wrote urging the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, there is cause for serious concern indeed about the future of reproductive freedom for American women if he should be confirmed.

“Even broader issues are at stake. If Roberts does not believe the Constitution guarantees individuals a right to privacy, he may also believe that Americans do not have the right to access contraception, to refuse unwanted medical treatment, or to engage in private, consensual sexual conduct as adults.

“These issues go to the heart of our freedoms as Americans, and I urge the Senators who will vote on the Roberts’ nomination to question him closely on these beliefs. Americans want to know more about where John Roberts stands on our most basic rights and freedoms.”

As Bloomberg reported today on the memo:
“In a Dec. 11, 1981, memo to his boss, Attorney General William French Smith, Roberts referred to a comment by former Solicitor General Erwin Griswold that derided the “so-called ‘right to privacy'” that formed the basis of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide.

Griswold, also a former dean of Harvard Law School, was “arguing as we have that such an amorphous right is not to be found in the Constitution,” Roberts wrote in the memo, among papers released by the National Archives and Records Administration in advance of his Senate confirmation hearings set to begin Sept. 6. Griswold “specifically criticizes Roe v. Wade,” Roberts wrote.