In 1981, a young Justice Department lawyer named John G. Roberts wrote a memorandum in which he referred to the Constitution's "so-called 'right to privacy.'" In 1990, a deputy solicitor general named John G. Roberts argued in a legal brief that Roe v. Wade -- which was based in large part on the right to privacy -- was "wrongly decided and should be overruled." But this morning in a Senate hearing room, a Supreme Court nominee named John G. Roberts said that the U.S. Constitution does, in fact, protect a "right to privacy" and that Roe v. Wade is "settled as a precedent of the court, entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis."
Some hearing watchers are sniffing out a "confirmation conversion," but abortion rights advocates aren't so impressed.
In an e-mail message to reporters this morning, NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan notes that Roberts didn't say "whether he believes the right to privacy includes a womans right to choose as recognized in Roe v. Wade." And while Roberts said he now considers Roe v. Wade "settled law," that doesn't mean he couldn't overturn it once he's on the Supreme Court. Perhaps more important, Keenan says, Roberts and conservative allies on the Supreme Court could gut Roe without overturning it directly. "In this coming session alone, the Supreme Court will take up at least two reproductive rights-related cases," Keenan writes. "The Supreme Court could render Roe v. Wade a shell of itself, even without overturning the landmark decision."