Supreme Court Appointments: Judge Bork and the Politicization of Senate Confirmations

By Norman Vieira; Leonard Gross | Go to book overview

7
THE RIGHT OF PRIVACY: CONTRACEPTION, ABORTION, AND STERILIZATION

For many years, Robert Bork was one of the country's foremost critics of judicially created rights of privacy. Bork had strongly attacked Supreme Court decisions creating constitutional rights to use contraceptives or have an abortion, and to a considerable extent, his reputation as a constitutional theorist was based on his analysis of the Court's privacy doctrine. But if Bork's loyal following was built on criticism of privacy decisions, so too was much of the vigorous opposition to Judge Bork. Molly Yard, then president of the National Organization of Women (NOW), called Bork "a Neanderthal," and Faye Wattleton, the president of Planned Parenthood, labeled him a "radical" who would permit government intrusion into the privacy of the bedroom.1 Others would forego the use of pejorative labels, but they nevertheless stood ready to carry out a ferocious struggle against Bork's confirmation.

Although privacy rights had been discussed in the confirmation proceedings of earlier Supreme Court nominees, there is no doubt that these issues received special attention at the hearings for Judge Bork. In part, this focus on privacy reflected an important tactical decision by Bork's opponents. Polls taken by Harrison Hickman for the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) showed that the public was concerned about privacy issues, and the polling results were used both to determine strategy and to influence popular opinion. Nikki Heidepriem, a consultant to the anti-Bork forces, explained the strategy this way: "[ W ]e had

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