With a 10-8 party line vote on Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Judge Samuel Alito’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, clearing the way for consideration of his nomination by the full Senate. If all goes according to plan, Judge Alito should become Associate Justice Alito within a matter of days.
As countless Republican nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court have previously shown us, there are no guarantees when it comes to Supreme Court justices. While political pundits crowd cable TV guessing how a newly minted justice will impact the Court’s ideological composition, such guesses are far from an exact science. There is, however, every indication that Judge Alito, once confirmed, will bring to the High Court a strict constructionist, conservative viewpoint of the constitution. Added to the reliably conservative votes of Justices Scalia, Thomas, and (thus far) Chief Justice Roberts, Judge Alito will likely be the fourth member of what will be seen as the Court’s reliably conservative bloc.
Left-wing activists would have us believe that these four votes are enough to do away with most of the rights they believe Americans hold dear, such as the right to abortion-on-demand and the imposition of social change and unpopular legislation by way of judicial fiat. The cries from the Left may be mostly unfounded, but they are correct in the very basic point that changes are now in the works at the Supreme Court.
With the retirement of Justice O’Connor, Justice Kennedy now assumes the role of the Court’s most sought-after swing vote. Intense behind-the-scenes finessing of written opinions in an effort to satisfy Justice Kennedy will no doubt precede future 5-4 decisions by the Court.
Further, with the addition of Judge Alito, the Supreme Court will likely become slightly more conservative and, most importantly, it will hopefully become less activist.
For pro-lifers, this swap of Alito for O’Connor could not have come at a more opportune time. As a pro-life activist for much of my adult life, I have been on the frontlines of the struggle to turn back the tide of Roe v. Wade. I witnessed the tragedy of President Clinton’s multiple vetoes of legislation aimed at stopping the barbaric procedure known as partial-birth abortion. And more recently, I was dumbfounded by the Supreme Court’s reasoning as it voted 5-4 to strike down a ban on late-term abortions.
But in a disciplined, goal-oriented battle on behalf of the unborn, we have continued to march on, just as thousands literally did in the nation’s capital this week, marking Roe’s 33rd anniversary. We secured passage of another ban on partial-birth abortion, the constitutionality of which has now been appealed to the Supreme Court. This comes at the same time that Justice O’Connor, one of the five justices who previously affirmed partial-birth abortion, retires. With Alito set to replace O’Connor, it is not pie in the sky to imagine that within a few short months, we could be celebrating the reversal of the Court’s prior rulings against partial-birth abortion bans, finally putting an end to that unmentionable horror.
Friends, this is why we have fought, and why the fight must continue. There is power in the voices and efforts of those who are willing to put principle ahead of politics and partisan identification. That is why I did not hesitate to join an unfortunately small group of pro-life leaders who were willing to publicly call for Judge Alito’s predecessor, Harriet Miers, to withdraw her nomination. (She withdrew the following day.) It is why I will not hesitate to praise a Democrat who takes a pro-life stance, or criticize a Republican who denies the value of all human life.
The battle over Judge Alito’s nomination exposed the deep partisan divide in our nation. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against Judge Alito not because he is unqualified for the bench, but rather because their most vocal constituents oppose his perceived views on abortion and other social issues. But you don’t have to befriend the entire Democratic Party to know that Planned Parenthood is not the spokesman of choice for that party’s entire membership. It is, therefore, unfortunate that battles over Supreme Court justices and important issues are automatically cast as political wars between Republicans and Democrats. Recognizing that there is strength in numbers, particularly in a nation as blessed with freedom as ours, we should emerge from the Alito fight with a renewed sense of the importance of finding allies wherever they may be found, and moving forward together so that we can accomplish our aims.
Most importantly, as we are cautiously optimistic about the future of the Court with Alito on the bench, we cannot forget how misplaced past faith in the Supreme Court has been. If the past several decades of pro-abortion rulings have taught us anything, it is that the value we place on human life cannot be dependent upon the whims of five out of nine justices. We have far too many examples of Republican-appointed justices who were billed as a savior for the unborn, and who left us demoralized when they turned out to be anything but. We must recognize that the only sure way for us to build a culture of life is to win the hearts and minds of our neighbors. That is not a Republican goal. It is a pro-life goal.
The more than 47 million unborn Americans who have perished since Roe was decided weren’t hoping that the Republicans, or that the Democrats, would stand up for them. They just needed Americans, (R) and (D) alike, to plead their cause. Will it take another 47 million preventable deaths before we accomplish our mission?
Judge Alito appears to be a promising ally in our battle to protect the unborn. But our efforts don’t stop with his confirmation. Instead we continue, perhaps harboring more hope, but remaining undistracted from the reason we are fighting and the knowledge that our most promising strategy is not to write-off political adversaries, but rather to change their hearts and welcome them into the fold.