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.
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 Ã¢€” Feminists for Life of America Ã¢€” 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.