It is likely that the 1984 Presidential Election will affect the pro-life movement in the United States for decades to come, for one of the President’s most important responsibilities is that of nominating federal judges, including Supreme Court Judges. Barring impeachment, once the nominations have been confirmed by the Senate, these men and women have life-long tenure, and their influence usually outlasts by many years that of the President who nominated them. Mr. Justice William J. Brennan was appointed to the High Court in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and though Eisenhower is long gone, Justice Brennan’s anti-life stance is still profoundly influencing the fate of the unborn child. At stake, therefore, in this November election was the ideology – pro-life or pro-abortion – of the judiciary for many years to come, and possibly into the 21st Century.
Five of the present Justices on the Supreme Court (Chief Justice Warren Burger, Associate Justices William Brennan, Lewis Powell, Harvey Blackman and Thurgood Marshall) will be 76 years of age, or older, next January, on Inauguration Day. All five gave the decision which legalized abortion in 1973. The Roe v. Wade decision ruled that “right of privacy”, which in fact appears nowhere in the American Constitution, allows a woman to kill her unborn child. That decision, which has been mercilessly criticized by eminent legal scholars, at one stroke rendered invalid dozens of duly-passed statutes in 43 of the States, and made legal the killing of 16 million babies.
In 1976, the same five men ruled that a state law which required a wife to get her husband’s consent to an abortion was unconstitutional.
In 1979, they ruled that parents may not reject abortions for their unmarried minor daughters.
In 1983, they extended their pro-abortion rulings by declaring unconstitutional:
- a requirement that abortions performed after the first trimester be performed in a hospital
- a prohibition barring a doctor from performing an abortion on an unmarried minor under the age of 15 years without parental consent (or an order from a court which has jurisdiction over her)
- a requirement that the doctor inform the patient concerning the emotional implications of abortion, and alternatives to abortion etc…
- a requirement for a 24 hour delay after the woman signs a consent form, to allow her time to reconsider
- a requirement that the doctors who perform abortions ensure that the victim’s remains are disposed of in a “humane and sanitary manner.”
Three Justices opposed the pro-abortion rulings in 1983 – Justices Byron R. White, William H. Rehnquist, and Sandra Day O’Connor. All three are relatively young.
The ninth Justice is John Paul Stevens III who voted for the majority. In the minority decision which she wrote in 1983, Madame Justice O’Connor stated that Roe v. Wade is “on a collision course with itself.” She stopped just short of saying it should be reversed.
In vies of the advanced age of some of the Justices it is probable that one, two, or even more new members will be added to the Supreme Court within the next four years. This likelihood was stressed by pro-lifers and pro-abortionists, and both groups worked hard and long to get a President favourable to their position.
To the bitter anger of many pro-life Democrats their Party platform in San Francisco contained the following declaration:
“The Democratic Party supports the 1973 Supreme Court decision on abortion rights as the law of the land and opposes any constitutional amendment to restrict or overturn that decision.” Thus, the Democratic Party endorsed abortion on demand and opposed any attempts to alter the decision of the seven Justices who ruled in the Roe v. Wade case. Moreover, it should be added that the theory that Supreme Court decisions are the ‘law of the land’ is called a myth by American experts in Constitutional Law. Pro-lifers had little to hope for, and everything to fear from this Democratic ideology, and from Mr. Mondale and Ms. Ferraro.
By contrast the Republican Party Platform stated: “We applaud President Reagan’s fine record of judicial appointments, and we reaffirm our support for the appointment of judges at all levels of the judiciary who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”
Certainly the nomination of Sandra O’Connor by President Reagan is a ray of hope for the pro-life movement.
Vacancies in the Supreme Court are rare, but in the ranks of the District and Circuit Court judges, there are many more. Indeed there are 45 newly-created federal judgeships which need to be filled and nominations were withheld until a President is sworn in next January. The ideology of the judges nominated to these Courts will have a profound influence on pro-life legal decisions.
There are further rays of hope. The Republican official policy which was adopted at Dallas, opposed federal funding of abortions, opposed funding for organizations that support abortion at home and abroad e.g. International Planned Parenthood, and for the first time in any party platform spoke out against infanticide. The record states that the Republican Party deplores “discrimination because of handicap” and the “insidious practice of denying medical care or even food and water to disabled infants.” President Reagan has already worked to end this type of euthanasia.
Although the Canadian media have covered the Presidential election in some depth, other election struggles vital to the pro-life cause have gone unnoticed. Pro-abortionist forces threw everything they could in efforts to defeat Senator Jesse Helms and Senator Roger Jepsen, both of whom had sponsored or co-sponsored pro-life amendments. With a major pro-life effort Helms was re-elected but unfortunately, Jepsen was defeated. In the House of Representatives a number of pro-abortionists have either retired or gone down to defeat. One victory which will cheer the Georgia pro-lifers is that of 33 year old Pat Swindall who replaced the hard-liner pro-abortionist Elliott Levitas.
Nothing is further from the truth, however, than to think that because of Party policies, all Republicans are pro-life and all Democrat are pro-abortion. Thirteen Democrat Senators who were in the last Congress and who will be still in the next have a perfect pro-life voting record and some have sponsored pro-life amendments in the last few years. The same pro-life position is taken by many Democrats in the House. On the other hand, many Republicans are pro-abortion and unfortunately nine of these will be back next session.
In Canada, we find it difficult enough to determine the stand of our candidates, but in the States faced with a Presidential Election, the election of Senators and Representatives in Washington, the State Governor, the State Senate and State House of Representatives etc…etc…one would need a computer to keep track of all the possibilities on a split ticket in voting. At this moment in time, therefore, there has not been time to count the pluses and minuses for the cause of the unborn in the November 6th, 1984 U.S. Elections.