Slate's Jurisprudence: Alito's Abortion Statement

The Washington Times has obtained a 1985 document in which Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito states that, in his view, the U.S. Constitution does not protect a woman's right to obtain an abortion. Alex Chadwick talks with Slate legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Today's Washington Times reports statements from Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito that will further disturb abortion rights advocates. Twenty years ago, when he was applying to become a deputy assistant to President Reagan's attorney general--that's Edwin Meese--Judge Alito wrote that he believed very strongly that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion--in letters contained in documents from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library that are being released today. Washington Times reporter Bill Sammon got the scoop and he joins us.

Welcome to DAY TO DAY, Bill.

And what exactly did Judge Alito write, and what was the context?

Mr. BILL SAMMON (The Washington Times): Well, it was really the first time that we have him in sort of his own voice in clear, unambiguous language talking about how conservative he is. You know, you have to remember he, at the time, was a career lawyer in the Reagan White House and was applying for his first job as a political appointee, and so I think he wanted to establish his credentials as a conservative in his job application, and so he went on at some length. And I think the key phrase, as you alluded to, was, quote, "The Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," end quote. And he also said, quote, "I personally believe very strongly," end quote, in that legal position. So, you know, up until now the waters were kind of muddied because we saw that as an appeals court judge, he had oftentimes ruled on the side of abortion advocates, and people thought, `Huh. OK, well, maybe this guy--you know, who knows how he would rule.' But now we see how he as a man, as a person, personally felt.

CHADWICK: Do you think this helps him or hurts him for confirmation? It's certainly going to excite the opponents. But over the weekend, I was reading that a lot of conservatives were a little worried that he might be soft on abortion.

Mr. SAMMON: No, that's a great question. I actually went and after we put this story in The Washington Times today, I started just kind of looking around on some of the conservative blogs and they're rejoicing at this, because this clears the air for conservatives, as well. And those who thought, `Well, maybe he is going to be wobbly on abortion,' are now saying, `Aha, Bush was right after all. This guy's solid. He's one of us. You know, he's going to be--he can be counted on on these important issues.'

CHADWICK: One more quote from this letter that you write about in the paper: "It's been an honor and source of personal satisfaction for me to serve in the office of solicitor general during President Reagan's administration and to help advance legal positions in which I personally believe very strongly." What about a suspicion of tendency toward judicial advocacy, which is something conservatives hate?

Mr. SAMMON: Yeah, that's ironic, because he goes on to talk in the same document about how he doesn't like judicial activism. As he puts it, he is an advocate of judicial restraint. And I think you're already starting to hear the line come out of the supporters of Judge Alito that, `Look, his jurisprudence is separate from his political views. Yes, he has these personal views, but if you look at the 15 years of his opinions on the appeals court, you can't find these political views manifesting themselves in his judicial rulings.' And they make the analogy to Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, where she had been a lawyer for the ACLU and she was obviously very liberal, and yet had not really pushed her political views so much in her judicial rulings. So that's going to be the central talking point, I predict, coming out of the White House today, is, you know, these people can keep those things separate and, therefore, this shouldn't be a disqualifier for Judge Alito.'

CHADWICK: Reporter Bill Sammon of The Washington Times.

Bill, thank you.

Mr. SAMMON: Thank you.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Related NPR Stories

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: