Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- The abortion lobby faces an uphill battle to prevent a pro-life justice from replacing a pro-choice justice on the Supreme Court. That explains why abortion rights activist Kate Michelman cited her personal history to try to generate emotion against the nomination of Federal Appellate Judge Samuel Alito. The problem is that the example she cited is inappropriate and inapplicable.
Michelman, longtime former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said Alito as a judge affirmed legislation that would have required her to notify a husband who had abandoned her of plans to get an abortion. That raised the prospect of women chasing after a deserting spouse, desperately trying to find him in order to fulfill notification requirements. In fact, the Pennsylvania law in question would have exempted Michelman from spousal notification in such a situation.

 That reflects the difficulty by left-wing pressure groups in seeking to use abortion to generate mass opposition to Alito. The right to abortion as asserted in Roe v. Wade has popular support, but that case will not be reconsidered by the Supreme Court in the foreseeable future, and Alito would not make the difference if it were reviewed. However, a Justice Alito probably would make it harder to get an abortion, and that is a difficult goal for the Democrats to oppose.

 President Bush had barely announced the Alito nomination last week when Michelman delved into her personal history. "More than 30 years ago," she said, "as a young Pennsylvania mother of three daughters who discovered I was pregnant after being abandoned by my husband, I made the difficult personal decision to have an abortion." She added that she faced "humiliation" under what was then Pennsylvania law: "I would be required to obtain the permission of the man who had deserted me and my family."

 Michelman continued: "Roe v. Wade emancipated women from the humiliation endured. Judge Samuel Alito voted to return us to it." That referred to Alito's 1991 dissent on a three-judge panel of the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, in which he favored a provision of a 1990 Pennsylvania statute requiring that a woman "has notified her spouse that she is about to undergo an abortion." This provision in 1992 was declared unconstitutional by a Supreme Court majority including the jurist that Alito would be replacing: Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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