WASHINGTON - March 10 - With Chief Justice William Rehnquist hinting in a television interview that he may soon be ready to retire his seat on the nation's highest court, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the nation's leading advocate of personal privacy and a woman's right to choose, pledged an aggressive campaign to block any anti-choice nominee to replace him.
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Kate Michelman said: "Any new Supreme Court justice will have a profound impact on the future of privacy rights and reproductive freedom in this country. If the Chief Justice does step down, you can rest assured that George Bush will not have a free pass to replace him with another anti-choice judicial activist. The role of the Chief Justice is particularly important, and the possibility that this President could elevate either of his stated models -- Justices Scalia and Thomas -- to that post would be especially troubling. Pro-choice Americans will fight with every tool at our disposal and every ounce of energy we possess to protect Roe vs. Wade for future generations."
Michelman added: "A retirement this year would be particularly important, as it appears that several potential direct challenges to Roe could reach the Court in the very near future. The Justice Blackmun papers released last week show just how precarious the right to choose has been in recent history. We cannot afford to let another out-of-the-mainstream nominee get through."
NARAL Pro-Choice America has identified several potential frontal assaults to the basic right to choose which have emerged in recent months:
-- Legislatures in five states are considering measures that would effectively outlaw abortion outright. Already, South Dakota has passed a bill that declares that life begins at conception, and Michigan is on the verge - due to a citizen's initiative taking advantage of a little-used constitutional provision -- of passing a measure that achieves the same goal.
-- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is considering a legal effort by Norma McCorvey, the original Jane Roe who is now an anti-choice activist, to reopen Roe vs. Wade.
-- The U.S. Department of Justice -- in defending the constitutionality of the first-ever federal law criminalizing abortion -- is arguing in court that there is no federal protection for doctor-patient confidentiality, and that prosecutors should be allowed to comb through the private medical records of thousands of American women.
Michelman further stated that the news of a potential retirement could increase participation in the pro-choice March for Women's Lives in Washington, DC on April 25: "At times like this, it is more important than ever that the pro-choice majority stand up and make our voices heard. We must make sure that the President, and every U.S. Senator, understands how passionate Americans are about keeping a pro-choice majority on the Supreme Court."