Robert Novak

 However, Michelman did not disclose the exemptions to spousal notification. As an abortion-seeking woman searching for the husband who has abandoned her, she would only have had to provide a signed (not notarized) statement that "her spouse, after diligent effort, could not be located."

 The abortion lobby also raises the specter of Alito forcing a pregnant woman to risk a beating by notifying a violent husband of her intended abortion. Actually, the statute permitted a woman to exempt herself with a non-notarized statement that she "has reason to believe that the furnishing of notice to her spouse is likely to result in the infliction of bodily injury upon her by her spouse or by another individual."

 These inconvenient facts make it more difficult to demonize Alito in the way Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in 1987 warned Robert Bork would mean "back-alley abortions." The right to abortion is not in danger. Even counting Alito, there are at most four votes to overturn Roe v. Wade among nine Supreme Court justices.

 But Alito replacing O'Connor on the high court could mean a new majority for parental and spousal notification as well as restrictions on the partial-birth abortion technique. These are what strategists for the Alito confirmation call the 70 percent issues -- where 70 percent of the public favors the conservative side.

 The carefully wrought Democratic master plan to stave off a conservative Supreme Court is in ruins. Massive filibustering of appellate court nominees, instead of intimidating Bush in Supreme Court nominations, resulted in the formulation of tactical means (the "nuclear option") to counteract filibusters.

 The Democratic dilemma is intense. While pro-choice pressure groups are so important to Democratic fund-raising that the party cannot be seen retreating on abortion, many party strategists admit privately that the issue has been a net minus for them. Kate Michelman obscuring the issues will not help.

Robert Novak

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

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