Roberts’ Wife Holds Strong Antiabortion Views

While John Roberts may be a “stealth” nominee, his wife’s views on the non-litmus-test issue that’s in fact the primary litmus test for both parties, abortion, are well known.

Wife of Nominee Holds Strong Antiabortion Views (LAT)

While Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.’s views on abortion triggered intense debate on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, there is no mistaking where his wife stands: Jane Sullivan Roberts, a lawyer, is ardently against abortion. A Roman Catholic like her husband, Jane Roberts has been deeply involved in the antiabortion movement. She provides her name, money and professional advice to a small Washington organization — Feminists for Life of America — that offers counseling and educational programs. The group has filed legal briefs before the high court challenging the constitutionality of abortion.

A spouse’s views normally are not considered relevant in weighing someone’s job suitability. But abortion is likely to figure prominently in the Senate debate over John Roberts’ nomination. And with his position on the issue unclear, abortion rights supporters expressed concern Wednesday that his wife’s views might suggest he also embraced efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade. “It’s unclear how all this will affect her husband,” said Jennifer Palmieri, a spokeswoman with the Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy group. “It’s possible that he would have a different view than her. It’s just that in the absence of information about this guy, people are looking at her and trying to read the tea leaves.”

Asked to discuss her role with Feminists for Life, Jane Roberts said in an e-mail to the Los Angeles Times: “Thanks for your inquiry. At this time, however, I would like to decline your invitation to talk.”

Advocacy groups on both sides of the issue were reacting strongly Wednesday to President Bush’s first Supreme Court nomination.
The president of the antiabortion group Operation Rescue, Troy Newman, said: “We pray that Roberts will be swiftly confirmed.” The president of the National Organization for Women, Kim Gandy, warned that of the high court candidates considered by Bush, Roberts was one of the most extreme when it came to the question of overturning the Roe vs. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion.

What this all misses is that one’s own policy preferences and the way one will rule as a judge may have precious little to do with one another. Several possibilities present themselves:

  • Roberts and his wife have different views.
  • Roberts personally believes abortion is wrong but believes that Roe and progeny were nonetheless correctly decided.
  • Roberts personally believes abortion is wrong and independently believes that Roe and progeny were wrongly decided but that they are now settled law.
  • Roberts personally believes abortion is wrong and independently believes that Roe and progeny were wrongly decided and should be overturned.

Only the last would change the Court’s balance on abortion cases.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Zsa Zsa says:

    Does this mean more filibustering?…

  2. Don Surber says:

    Wasn’t the man who wrote Roe-Wade Catholic?

  3. Steve Verdon says:

    Oh for crying outloud this is getting ridiculous. I tell you I just can’t help shaking the fact that many on the Left is unhinged (like how many on the Right were unhinged with Clinton). So Robert’s wife has strong views big whoop.

    I happen to think abortion should be legal. I have some issue with Roe v. Wade, but not sufficient to make it a big deal for me. My wife on the other hand is much, much more hostile to abortion than I am. Same thing with gay marriage (she’s opposed, I could care less).

    So this idea that Roberts’ wife has strong views on a topic, therefore Roberts must also have strong views is just stupid.

  4. Beldar says:

    Personal belief that abortion is wrong (as a matter of policy, ethics, etc.) is not a prerequisite for concluding that Roe and its progeny were wrongly decided and should be overruled. It’s entirely possible (and internally consistent) that an individual might vote to legalize abortion were he a legislator, yet vote to overrule Roe were he a judge. Judge Roberts is clearly capable of making this distinction, as it’s precisely the distinction he drew in the Hedgespeth “french fry” case, in which he declined the invitation to overturn as unconstitutional the DC Metro’s extremely foolish zero tolerance policy that led to the twelve-year-old girl’s arrest for eating one french fry.

  5. Jonathan Robertson says:

    You forgot a permutation. He believes abortion should be legal but that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overturned. That would be a progressive originalist (a la Scalia) who thought abortion was a state law not federal or privacy issue.

    I guess that as someone relatively liberal in my views, I couldn’t fall in love with someone who is a believer in the doctrines of the Catholic church. How ridculous is that. I agree with Steve “So this idea that Roberts’ wife has strong views on a topic, therefore Roberts must also have strong views is just stupid.” Or as Scalia said in his speech in March “A pox on both their houses.”

  6. jdsgjn says:

    It is clear that this Roberts fellow is pro-choice–irregardless of his wife’s views.

  7. McGehee says:

    I’ve heard his goldfish favors gun control.

  8. mike says:

    He sleeps on the “right” side of the bed also. Let’s oppose him.