WASHINGTON, DC --(Source: Washington Post from www.prolifeinfo.org) Pro-abortion organizations banded together Tuesday to
continue their fight to beat pro-life Senator and prevent him from
becoming the next United States Attorney General.
Ashcroft's pro-life position and strong record on abortion has united
pro-life organziations and rallied them to his defense. "If I had the
opportunity to pass but a single law, I would fully recognize the
constitutional right to life of every unborn child, and ban every abortion
except for those medically necessary to save the life of the mother,"
Ashcroft once proclaimed.
Since his first run for public office in 1972 -- a year before the Roe v.
Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide -- Ashcroft has made
unrelenting opposition to abortion a central tenet of his political and
legal life, casting his opposition as a religious and moral imperative.
As Missouri's governor, Ashcroft proposed legislation that would have
barred women from having more than one abortion in a lifetime, except to
protect a mother's life. The measure, which was not enacted, would have
required abortion practitioners to inquire whether a woman had undergone a
previous abortion under threat of loss of their medical licenses.
Ashcroft also backed proposals as governor to ban abortions sought for
financial reasons, to avoid marital difficulty or to avoid interrupting a
career. He has repeatedly called for reversal of Roe v. Wade, describing
the decision as "a miserable failure" that "challenged God's ability to
mark when life begins and ends."
In 1998, Ashcroft and two other senators sponsored a proposed amendment to
the U.S. Constitution that would ban nearly all abortions. That same year,
Ashcroft signed a letter with seven other senators objecting to coverage
of birth control by federal health care plans because contraceptives such
as birth control pills and intrauterine devices are "de facto
abortifacients" -- meaning they end viable pregnancies, rather than
Abortion advocates argue that Ashcroft cannot be trusted to uphold court
rulings and federal laws that enshrine a woman's so-called right to
abortion. They fear that Ashcroft will use abortion as a litmus test in
crafting legal opinions and recommending judges for the federal bench.
"He has a demonstrable and unbroken record of opposition to the right to
choose, of unremitting hostility to a fundamental constitutional right,"
said Elizabeth Cavendish, legal director for the National Abortion and
Reproductive Rights Action League. "The guy has been thinking about how to
take away a woman's right to choose for a quarter century. It's hard to
imagine him acting contrary to that record."
Pro-life Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) responded, "Are we going to have a
litmus test that if you believe Roe v. Wade was an unsound decision
legally that you can't be the attorney general of the United States? I
don't think that will disqualify John Ashcroft"
Kate Michelman, president of NARAL, said, "We are going to oppose
[Ashcroft] and oppose him strongly." At a recent Capitol Hill reception,
Michelman "confront[ed] and upbraid[ed]" pro-abortion Sen. Robert
Torricelli (D-N.J.), who "suggested" that he would vote for Ashcroft
during the confirmation hearings.
Many pro-life advocates have high hopes that Ashcroft would use the
attorney general's post to chip away at Roe.
"We do not have to be concerned about what he will do with the abortion
question," said Pam Manning, president of the Missouri Right to Life
Committee, who has worked with Ashcroft for two decades. "It will
automatically be handled if you uphold the Constitution and do not expand
the Constitution, and John Ashcroft will do that. We are very hopeful."
As attorney general, Ashcroft could intervene, for example, in a future
court case on partial-birth abortion, which he has repeatedly attempted to
ban. In the 1980s, the office of pro-life Attorney General Edwin Meese
argued in favor of new pro-life laws in Webster v. Reproductive Health
Legal experts said the extent to which Ashcroft can influence abortion
policy as attorney general depends largely on how actively he and Bush
want to take on the issue. The attorney general is frequently asked for
legal opinions by federal judges and can intervene in other federal cases
Charles Fried, a Harvard University law professor who argued for the
plaintiffs in Webster as solicitor general, said the influence of
attorneys general on policy, legal rulings and appointments has varied
dramatically. "I don't think, for instance, Janet Reno was very
influential on judicial appointments, while Ed Meese was extremely
influential," Fried said. "It's a question of the personal relationships
and of the disposition of the person holding the office."
Ashcroft's public opposition to abortion stretches back to his first
political campaign in 1972, when he narrowly lost a Republican primary for
a congressional seat in southwest Missouri. A deeply Christian man whose
father and grandfather were Assemblies of God ministers, Ashcroft argued
before the U.S. Supreme Court for new pro-life laws as Missouri's attorney
general in 1982. Later, as governor, he helped craft the pro-life Missouri
law that led to the Webster ruling.
In 1995, as a freshman senator, he quickly emerged as a leader in efforts
to pass laws requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortions, a
prohibition on partial-birth abortions and a ban on using federal funds
for abortions at managed care facilities. NARAL ranks Ashcroft as one of
the lowest scoring senators in its annual voting scorecard, saying that 43
of 44 votes he cast during his six-year term were "anti-choice votes."
He earned perfect ratings in most years from the National Right to Life
Committee and the Christian Coalition, and ranked third among all
congressional candidates in the 2000 election cycle as a recipient of
money from pro-life groups.
Ashcroft's views on abortion have caused him to oppose some presidential
appointments as well. The Missouri senator led campaigns against two
abortion supporters who were candidates for surgeon general, Henry Foster
and David Satcher. Foster was defeated, but Satcher was confirmed over
In addition, abortion played a role in Ashcroft's decision to quash a
federal judgeship last year for Missouri Supreme Court Justice Ronnie
White, who may be called to testify at Ashcroft's confirmation hearing.
Although the Senate debate was dominated by criminal justice issues,
Ashcroft said in a 1998 statement that he also opposed White because of
"the nominee's manipulation of legislative procedures" in 1992, when White
helped kill an antiabortion bill as a Missouri state legislator.
Ashcroft's opposition to judicial activism undergirds many of his stands
on abortion over the years and forms the bedrock of his legal argument
against Roe. In a 1997 speech, for example, Ashcroft accused "renegade
judges" and a "robed, contemptuous intellectual elite" of usurping
congressional and state powers on abortion and other issues.
"To the so-called leaders who say abortion is too politically divisive,
let me be clear," Ashcroft said in another speech that year at a Christian
Coalition event. "Confronting our cultural crises is the true test of our
courage and true measure of our leadership. It is time for us to
reacquaint our party with the politics of principle. We must not seek the
deal; we must seek the ideal."
In the 1998 speech that preceded his South Carolina straw poll victory,
Ashcroft capped a stirring condemnation of abortion by holding up two
pictures of his grandchild, including one showing a sonogram image before
birth, according to media accounts.
"If the Supreme Court had seen these pictures, would they say it was okay
to destroy this grandson of mine?" Ashcroft asked, according to an account
in Human Events. "I say no. I say Americans must protect unborn children
in the law."
Ultimately it will be members of the Senate who vote for or against
Ashcroft and with the 50-50 partisan split the vote may be close. However,
one leading Democratic Senator who might support Ashcroft said he would be
Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), who frequently votes for pro-life legislation,
told FOX News Sunday, "I think it will not be unanimous, there will be
votes against him. But when the final count is made, he will be
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