Harriet Miers: Outlaw abortion except to prevent the death of the mother

The Supreme Court nominee staked out an extreme position in a 1989 questionnaire.

Published October 18, 2005 3:41PM (EDT)

Harriet Miers may have a hard time communicating her views on constitutional law or keeping her Supreme Court justices straight, but she seems pretty darned clear about this: She is -- or at least she was -- adamantly opposed to abortion rights.

Miers has just submitted her responses to a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire. With them, she has included her responses to a 1989 questionnaire from the antiabortion group Texans United for Life. In those responses, Miers says that she would support a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion except when "necessary to prevent the death of the mother."

Miers' response isn't necessarily inconsistent with her claim that "no one knows" what she thinks about Roe v. Wade -- it's conceivable, we suppose, that she believes Roe was rightly decided under the Constitution as it exists and that a constitutional amendment would be required to reverse it. But her response does put her at the extreme edge of the antiabortion movement. Reversing Roe v. Wade would merely leave decisions about outlawing abortion up to individual states; the constitutional amendment Miers said she'd support in 1989 would outlaw abortion throughout the country, regardless of the desires of the residents of any given state. And the amendment envisioned by Texans United for Life wouldn't allow abortions in the case of rape or incest or serious threats to the health of the mother.

Miers' other responses to the Texans United for Life questionnaire confirm her antiabortion views. As the Associated Press notes, she checked boxes indicating that she agreed with every policy position the group put forward: She promised to appear at "pro-life" rallies and events, to support efforts to outlaw abortion on the state level, to fight the use of public money for abortion and to try to keep "pro-abortion" people off city boards and commissions. With Miers' nomination, George W. Bush seems to be taking that last vow straight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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