August 9, 2005

Abortion-rights groups demand documents on Roberts

By Vicki Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Abortion-rights groups mostly
opposed to conservative Supreme Court nominee John Roberts on
Tuesday urged the White House to release documents, including a
legal brief in which he argued civil rights laws do not protect
women denied access to abortions by violent protests.

The organizations joined the call by Senate Democrats to
turn over documents from Roberts' work as deputy solicitor
general under former President George H.W. Bush. The U.S.
Justice Department has rejected the request, citing
attorney-client privilege.

The groups, which largely oppose Roberts because of his
intervention in the abortion clinic case, also said senators
must press Roberts on the brief he co-authored that contended
that harassment aimed at women seeking abortion services did
not constitute discrimination.

"It's important to note that the government was not
required to enter this case. Instead, John Roberts voluntarily
chose to join in and take the side of a convicted bomber and
other violent anti-choice extremists," Vicki Saporta, president
of the National Abortion Federation, said at a news conference.

In two appearances before the justices, Roberts helped tip
a divided U.S. Supreme Court to rule against the use of a civil
rights statute to prevent abortion foes from blocking clinics,
handing pro-choice advocates a major setback.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold confirmation
hearings on Roberts, a federal appeals judge tapped by
President Bush to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor,
when Congress returns next month from its summer recess.

Democrats generally have held their fire on Roberts,
focusing more on their fight with the White House over
documents from Roberts' work as a deputy solicitor general,
which they said would shed light on his views on abortion and
other controversial issues.

The Bush administration released many documents from
Roberts' tenure already in the public domain, but it said
documents on internal deliberations should be kept private.

The pro-choice organizations said the documents are
essential to help determine whether Roberts was following
government policy in preparing the brief in the abortion clinic
case or whether it reflected his own beliefs.

"Was Roberts the chief protagonist for the mistaken
direction in combating violence that had to be reversed by the
FACE Act and subsequent court cases?" asked Eleanor Smeal,
president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, referring to a
1994 law that made it illegal to use force, threat of force or
physical obstruction to prevent someone from providing or
receiving abortions.

NARAL Pro-Choice America on Monday launched a nationwide
television ad campaign focusing on Roberts' work on the
abortion clinic court case.

Nancy Keenan, NARAL's president, said while she is sure
Roberts "finds bombings and murder abhorrent ... his
ideological view of the law compelled him to go out of his way"
to argue against extending federal protections in the case.