NARAL Pulls Ad Criticizing Roberts

NARAL Pro-Choice America is withdrawing its TV ad that harshly criticized Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Even fellow abortion-rights allies complained the ad was unfair.

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The confirmation hearings don't begin for another 25 days, but already the forces behind the nomination of John Roberts for the Supreme Court are claiming a victory. The group NARAL Pro-Choice America withdrew a controversial TV ad attacking Roberts after relentless criticism. NPR's Brian Naylor has the story.

BRIAN NAYLOR reporting:

The NARAL ad hit the airwaves earlier this week. Showing footage of a 1998 abortion clinic bombing, the ad faded to a picture of John Roberts and a copy of a legal brief from a case he argued seven years earlier. That case was about protesters blockading clinics. The ad concluded with this sentence.

(Soundbite of TV ad)

Unidentified Woman: America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans.

NAYLOR: The commercial drew immediate criticism. The non-partisan watchdog group FactCheck.org called the spot false and misleading. Allies in the abortion rights movement, including Senator Arlen Specter and Catholics for a Free Choice, called on NARAL to pull the ad. Last night NARAL relented, saying the ad had become a distraction. Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, applauded NARAL's decision.

Ms. FRANCES KISSLING (President, Catholics for a Free Choice): I think that we really have got to keep the debate about Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court on a high level related to his judicial temperament and qualities for the job, and I thought the ad was a little too personal.

NAYLOR: Defenders of Roberts were gleeful. Progress for America had produced its own ad denouncing the NARAL spot. Barbara Comstock is a spokeswoman for the group.

Ms. BARBARA COMSTOCK (Progress for America): The things that the ad have demonstrated that you know right out of the box that NARAL and many of these extreme groups are willing to lie, that they are that desperate and that they will resort to just about anything.

NAYLOR: NARAL says it's replacing its old spot with a more general ad on Roberts' record. But the damage may already be done, not so much to Roberts' reputation but to NARAL's. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

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