Roe's future rests with Bush, justices
Activists on both sides of the abortion issue fear they're not going to get what they want out of President George W. Bush. Abortion foe Martin Wishnatsky of Fargo said he believes it doesn't matter whom Bush appoints to the Supreme Court...
Activists on both sides of the abortion issue fear they're not going to get what they want out of President George W. Bush.
Abortion foe Martin Wishnatsky of Fargo said he believes it doesn't matter whom Bush appoints to the Supreme Court. Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, won't be overturned, he said.
"I'm not expecting it," he said. "It should've happened in '91 and it didn't, or '92. I don't think it'll happen through the political process. In fact, I don't think it's going to happen at all."
Lynn Gifford, former head of the now-defunct Fargo chapter of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, says it's virtually certain the 1973 decision will be overturned.
"It's going to happen," Gifford said. "It's so fractious now, there's no middle ground."
She said that there was a time, back before the early 1990s, when women from both sides of the issue tried to find common ground. But that chance passed a long time ago, she said.
Wishnatsky said in the late 1980s and early 1990s, anti-abortion activists expected Roe v. Wade to be overturned. When Justice Clarence Thomas was confirmed, there appeared to be an anti-abortion majority on the court.
But in 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president and in its ruling on Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Supreme Court reaffirmed Roe.
Wishnatsky has come to believe that the United States will face divine retribution for allowing abortions to happen.
"There's nothing more to be done,'' he said. "America doesn't want to outlaw abortion. So then God will have to deal with America over it.''
Jane Bovard, administrator of the Red River Women's Clinic -- the only North Dakota facility that does abortions -- said these are scary times for those favoring abortion rights.
Overturning of Roe "would surprise me if it actually did happen," she said. "But I've been surprised before."
An organizer for the policy group Feminist Majority recently visited Fargo and talked about a possible filibuster over any anti-abortion Supreme Court nominees, Bovard said.
There are rumors that Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor may retire, although O'Connor could be in line to be the next chief justice, she said. And there are questions about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's health. President Bush may have the opportunity to appoint several justices, she said.
But if he appoints nothing but anti-abortion judges, it could be a mistake, Bovard said, because "it will energize pro-choice people. I think you'll see a lot of pro-choice people come out of the woodwork."
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said the most likely retirements from the Supreme Court -- including Rehnquist -- are justices who support overturning Roe, so there will be no gain of anti-abortion votes on the court.
Dorgan said the most likely action on abortion will be passage of a partial-birth abortion ban -- which Dorgan has supported -- and signing of that bill by the president. The last time such a bill passed, Bill Clinton vetoed it.
Other than that, it will be up to those on both sides of the issue to work together to find a solution acceptable to everybody that will keep abortions safe and rare, Dorgan said.
"I don't think either the Congress or the (Supreme) Court is likely to change the underlying principle of Roe v. Wade," he said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Pantera at (701) 241-5541