Specter Ignites Flap over Abortion: Considering That He Is in Line to Head the Senate Judiciary Committee, Which Examines Judicial Nominees for Federal Courts, Senator Specter's Pro-Abortion Stance Is Troubling

By McManus, John F. | The New American, December 13, 2004 | Go to article overview

Specter Ignites Flap over Abortion: Considering That He Is in Line to Head the Senate Judiciary Committee, Which Examines Judicial Nominees for Federal Courts, Senator Specter's Pro-Abortion Stance Is Troubling


McManus, John F., The New American


Barring any unforeseen and truly startling developments, Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) will serve as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee for at least the next six years. He won re-election in November, and because Senate rules now bar retention of committee chairmanships beyond eight years, the current chairman, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), must step aside when the new Congress convenes in January. Specter, who is next in seniority, will take the chair.

This means that an outspoken advocate of abortion will lead the important Senate committee that passes first judgment on all nominations for federal judgeships, including those for positions on the Supreme Court. With numerous ailing and aging justices sitting on the high court, vacancies will almost certainly develop.

Pro-life Americans remember that Specter led the fight against approval of Robert Bork, who opposed Roe v. Wade, for a seat on the Supreme Court in 1987. Specter was the lone Republican who joined with the Democrat majority to oppose Bork's nomination at the Judiciary Committee level. The Pennsylvanian then claimed that he opposed Judge Bork for a variety of reasons, but the pro-life movement has always contended that the matter of abortion was his key motivation. After a bruising session before the Judiciary Committee and 12 days before the entire Senate, Bork's nomination was rejected 58-42.

During subsequent years, Specter demonstrated his support for abortion in a number of instances. In 1998, he approved the nomination of Dr. David Satcher to be the nation's Surgeon General. Satcher favored the grisly procedure known as partial-birth abortion.

Also, a non-binding measure known merely as a "sense of the Congress" asked members to register opinions both in 1999 and 2003 on the advisability of overturning Roe v. Wade. Each time, Specter voted to let the infamous 1973 decision stand, thereby solidifying a continuation of the practice that claims close to 1.5 million infants each year.

Early in 2004, conservative Republican Congressman Pat Toomey mounted a primary challenge to the well-entrenched liberal, and the most talked about issue in that campaign was abortion, with Toomey's outspoken pro-life position standing in clear opposition to Specter's open advocacy of what he always labels "choice." When it looked as though Toomey would prevail, President Bush entered the fray: he traveled to Pennsylvania to urge voters to back Specter.

Questioned about his support for an openly avid pro-abortion legislator, Mr. Bush admitted that Specter was "a little bit independent-minded sometimes [but] a firm ally when it matters most." Contrary to a widely held belief, Mr. Bush obviously doesn't consider abortion an issue that "matters most."

That April primary saw Specter squeak by with 527,000 votes to Toomey's 510,000. President Judie Brown of the American Life League laments that many pro-lifers have become "Republicans first and pro-life next."

No sooner had the November elections guaranteed a Republican majority in the Senate with Specter in line to lead the Judiciary than Specter told reporters, "When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. …

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Specter Ignites Flap over Abortion: Considering That He Is in Line to Head the Senate Judiciary Committee, Which Examines Judicial Nominees for Federal Courts, Senator Specter's Pro-Abortion Stance Is Troubling
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