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More on Politics & Society from The Atlantic Monthly.

Contents | January/February 2005

From the archives:

"Abortion" A collection of articles from The Atlantic Monthly.

Also by Benjamin Wittes:

"The Executioner's Swan Song?" (October 2005)
The death penalty is not about to vanish overnight—but the Supreme Court's tolerance for it is diminishing rapidly.

"Without Precedent" (September 2005)
Actually, the Supreme Court's problem is not merely disconnection from the real world—it's also arrogance, dishonesty, grandiosity, and a lack of respect for principle, history, or logic.

"The Hapless Toad" (May 2005)
Amid all the liberal hysteria about the threats posed by a conservative Supreme Court, one threat tends to be ignored—and it happens to be the biggest one.


The Atlantic Monthly | January/February 2005
The Agenda

Letting Go of Roe

The Democratic Party's commitment to preserving Roe v. Wade has been deeply unhealthy for abortion rights, for liberalism more generally, and ultimately for American democracy

by Benjamin Wittes


A re we about to suffer through another horrible Supreme Court nomination dominated by abortion politics?

Bet on it. With Chief Justice William Rehnquist seriously ill, the prospect of a Supreme Court vacancy early in George Bush's second term looms over American politics. The script for this—and every—Republican high-court nomination was written long ago. You already know how it goes: Both his own convictions and the need to keep his political base happy require a conservative president to nominate someone expected to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that established the constitutional right of women to terminate their pregnancies. He has only two realistic choices. He can name someone openly hostile to Roe—and thereby trigger a major confrontation with liberal interest groups and Senate Democrats. Or he can name someone with no record on abortion rights but whose jurisprudential approach suggests a predictable skepticism toward them—in which case liberals will insist on trying to divine the nominee's views on the question, which he or she in turn will endeavor to conceal. Unless the president nominates someone the Democrats deem it not in their interests to oppose, the nomination process will become an ugly spectacle in which a single narrow issue pushes to the sidelines discussion of the broad array of other important legal questions the Supreme Court handles. And that process will cast abortion-rights supporters as intolerant of those who disagree with them—or even those they fear may disagree with them.

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What do you think? Discuss this article in Post & Riposte.

Benjamin Wittes is an editorial writer at The Washington Post and the author of Starr: A Reassessment (2002). The views expressed here are his own.
Copyright © 2005 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; January/February 2005; Letting Go of Roe; Volume 295, No. 1; 48-53

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