This time, Roe vs. Wade really could hang in the balance
If Justices John Paul Stevens or Ruth Bader Ginsburg were to be replaced by a staunch conservative, that could tip the majority against abortion rights.
The Supreme Court's onetime wide majority in favor of abortion rights has shrunk to one: Justice John Paul Stevens, who is 88. Now the decision's fate may depend on who becomes the next president.
By David G. Savage,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 5, 2008
WASHINGTON -- Every four years, defenders of abortion rights proclaim that the fate of Roe vs. Wade hangs on the outcome of the presidential election.
This year, they may be right.
Through most of the 1990s and until recently, the Supreme Court had a solid 6-3 majority in favor of upholding the right of a woman to choose abortion. But the margin has shrunk to one, now that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is retired and has been replaced by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
And Justice John Paul Stevens, a leader of the narrow majority for abortion rights, is 88.
"Clearly, Roe is on the line this time," said Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen, a former lawyer for NARAL Pro-Choice America. "It is quite clear they have four votes against it. If the next president appoints one more, the odds are it will be overruled."
Some advocates worry that the perennial cries of "Roe is falling" has had the effect of muting such claims.
"What we find scary is that people don't understand what's at stake," said Kathryn Kolbert, president of People for the American Way. "In the next four years, one to as many as three Supreme Court justices may step down, and they all will come from the liberal end of the court."
But that doesn't mean abortion or the fate of the Roe decision is a rallying cry on the campaign trail for either Democrats or Republicans. The two parties have staked out opposite positions, but their candidates rarely mention them when campaigning.
The abortion issue is enormously important to the base of both parties, political strategists say, but it is a touchy and difficult matter to raise with an audience of swing voters and those who are undecided.
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