Stephanopoulos Frets to Specter that Alito Will Overturn Roe, Move Court to Right

Interviewing liberal Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter on Sunday’s This Week, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos devoted all of his questions about the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, to chafing over his position on abortion and how he will make the Court “more conservative.” Stephanopoulos first asked: “You are pro-choice and you’re voting for Judge Alito. Does that mean you’re convinced he won't vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?” Next, Stephanopoulos worried that, unlike, Chief Justice John Roberts, Alito “wouldn't use the word 'settled law’ to describe Roe v. Wade. And despite your best efforts, he also wouldn't describe it as a 'super-super precedent,’ so he did seem to leave a lot of wiggle room there.” Stephanopoulos then pointed out the guidance offered by the New York Times: “The New York Times editorial page said that abortion rights supporters like you should not be able to support Judge Alito in good conscience. How do you respond?” In his fourth and last question on the hearings, before moving on to “eavesdropping,” Stephanopoulos fretted: “Isn't it very likely that now with Judge Roberts, and the likely confirmation of Judge Alito, that the Supreme Court is going to shift in a more conservative direction?” (Transcript follows.)

The first four questions from Stephanopoulos to Specter, who appeared from Philadelphia, on the January 15 This Week:
George Stephanopoulos: “You are pro-choice and you’re voting for Judge Alito. Does that mean you’re convinced he won't vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?”

Senator Arlen Specter: “I believe that he has given strong assurances of his reliance on precedents. I don't think there's any way to be convinced when a nominee is constrained not to answer the question, the ultimate question as how he would vote. But when you look at the indicators, he went pretty far in saying that the constitution is a living document, that when precedents are quote, 'embedded’ in the culture of our society that they are entitled to a great weight, and he was very, very close to what Chief Justice Roberts had to say really, George, not a dime's worth of difference.”

Stephanopoulos: “Very close, but not exact. He wouldn't use the word 'settled law’ to describe Roe v. Wade. And despite your best efforts, he also wouldn't describe it as a 'super-super precedent,’ so he did seem to leave a lot of wiggle room there.”

Specter: “Well. I think it is true that he has left latitude to make a decision as he must without making a firm commitment, but where you have him going as far as he did on saying that he agrees with Cardoza that the constitution changes and reflects the values of the people and I took him through the details of Casey versus Planned Parenthood, how women and men too are relying on Casey and he did agree with the emphasis that reliance is important, so I think he went about as far as he can go. No guarantees, George.”

Stephanopoulos: “Certainly no guarantees, but the New York Times editorial page said that abortion rights supporters like you should not be able to support Judge Alito in good conscience. How do you respond?”

Specter: “Well, I think the New York Times is entitled to its opinion, but today the Washington Post and the Philadelphia Inquirer both came out in support of Judge Alito and neither of those newspapers is a strong bastion of conservatism.”

Stephanopoulos: “Bottom line, I know you always talk about there can be surprises with a judicial nominee, but isn't it very likely that now with Judge Roberts, and the likely confirmation of Judge Alito, that the Supreme Court is going to shift in a more conservative direction?”

Specter: “It is uncertain. You had the famous steel seizure case where President Truman's appointees disappointed him. You have the case of David Souter. When he was up, the women's groups marched on Capitol Hill with big posters, 'Stop Souter or women will die.’ When Souter was Attorney General of New Hampshire, he opposed repealing the New Hampshire law banning abortion even though the U.S. Supreme court had declared it unconstitutional, and now Justice Souter has become a major proponent to keep Roe going as have Justice Kennedy and O'Connor who before coming to the court were very much against abortion rights, so the rule seems to be that there is no rule.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center