A leading abortion rights group launched a second television ad attacking Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. yesterday, saying his questioning of a constitutional "right to privacy" suggests he might support new limits on abortion.
"There's too much at stake" to give Roberts, 50, a lifetime appointment to the court, says the ad, by NARAL Pro-Choice America. It began airing nationwide on CNN and on local cable channels in the Washington area, the group said. A print version will run in some newspapers this weekend.
Two weeks ago, NARAL stopped airing a more sharply worded anti-Roberts ad after conservatives and some Democrats said it flagrantly misrepresented his record. That ad said Roberts sided with extremists including a convicted bomber of abortion clinics.
NARAL seemed eager to tell supporters and others that the new ad is factual and straightforward. "We have vetted the ad through our coalition partners, friends on the Hill, and various legal experts and are confident that this message will resonate with the 'talking heads' and 'Washington insiders' that we need to reach in the week prior to the beginning of the hearings," the group said in an e-mail statement. The Senate Judiciary Committee will open its confirmation hearing for Roberts on Sept. 6.
The new ad cites a 1981 memo about abortion written by Roberts -- then a young lawyer in the Justice Department -- that refers to "the so-called 'right to privacy.' " The Supreme Court based its 1973 Roe v. Wade case, which legalized abortion in all 50 states, on a woman's right to privacy.
The ad also notes that in September 1990, as an assistant in the solicitor general's office, Roberts wrote a brief that stated, "We continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled."
Asked about the brief two years ago at the confirmation hearing for his appointment to a federal appeals court, Roberts avoided saying whether the words reflected his personal views or, as his backers say, simply stated the administration's well-known position. More recently, Roberts has told senators that changes to established law should be "modest," which some interpret as a sign he would be reluctant to overturn long-standing decisions such as Roe.
But NARAL President Nancy Keenan is not reassured. "We need a Supreme Court nominee who respects our fundamental right to privacy, freedom and personal responsibility," she said yesterday. "John Roberts dismisses our 'so-called' right to privacy -- letting politicians into the most private decisions of every American and their families."
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, said he will meet Monday for a second time with Roberts. The meeting will be their first since Leahy's stern Aug. 16 statement regarding documents from Roberts's days as a GOP administration lawyer. "Those papers that we have received paint a picture of John Roberts as an eager and aggressive advocate of policies that are deeply tinged with the ideology of the far-right wing of his party then, and now," Leahy said then.
Leahy spokesman David Carle said the senator wants to discuss several issues with Roberts, but he declined to name them. Asked if the meeting's tone is likely to be less friendly than the first, which occurred before the documents were released, Carle said: "The topics they discuss will certainly reflect the new information that has come to light." He said Leahy also is likely to renew his push for records from the solicitor general's office that the Bush administration declines to release.