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The Tally Ho

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Timing is everything

As the Cylons would tell us, this has all happened before and it will all happen again.

All the local news sources are shouting about Harriet Miers' reponse to a questionnaire back in 1989, stating that she would support congressional action to ban abortion in cases that did not endanger a mother's life. The liberals say, "Look! We told you she was anti-choice!" and the conservatives say, "That was 14 years ago and we don't trust it!" This only strengthens my belief that Miers is not really a nominee but more of a scapegoat; Congress will fight over her for months, the Repubs get to call the Dems obstructionist and oppositional (and sexist too, as a bonus!), and possibly gain a boost in the midterm elections.

But when she goes through confirmation hearings, this questionnaire will be important not only for its content, but for its timing. In 1989, conservative and religious opposition to abortion was growing stronger, and most pro-choice folks were still sleeping because they felt that Roe was a done deal. When Planned Parenthood v. Casey came along in 1992, it was supposed to be the decision that overturned Roe, since the conservatives felt they finally had a majority on the court. It was carefully crafted and timed to take down abortion rights. Because of O'Connor's vote, Casey couldn't do that. It reaffirmed a woman's basic right to abortion, though it allowed states to regulate abortion in ways that did not put an "undue burden" on the woman seeking it. (This case actually laid groundwork for a lot of the restrictions that are giving abortion-rights advocates fits right about now, so it was a mixed blessing.) Later next month, the Supreme Court will hear a New Hampshire case concerning parental notification (Ayotte, I think?), which is seen by many conservatives as the next big challenge to Roe. Some states have "trigger laws" saying that abortion is considered illegal by their state government, either still on the books from the early 70s or laid there later in case Roe is ever overturned. Other states are currently bringing cases against abortion providers under those same laws, hoping that by the time they are appealed, the Supreme Court will be conservative enough to uphold the state's case. (Will seek out particulars and post them when I have more time.) Anyway, Meirs' response on this questionnaire was a politically correct and powerful thing to say when running for the Dallas City Council in 1989; there are remarkable similarities to our current political climate; and I think she was answering quite truthfully and probably hasn't changed her views much since then. Added to the fact that she was Bush's lawyer and will probably be hearing cases about executive power, and the fact that she has NEVER BEEN A JUDGE, the Democrats' job now should be to take her down as quickly as possible with broad popular support.

Though if O'Connor remained on the bench long enough to rule on Ayotte, I sure wouldn't mind.


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