Activists speak out about abortion case

By Devon Sharma

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week not to reopen Roe v. Wade, the controversial 1973 case that legalized abortion, was met with mixed reactions on campus and created speculation that future Supreme Court justice nominees may be decided based primarily on their stance on abortion.

On Feb. 22, The Court declined to hear McCorvey v. Hill, which sought to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling. The case was brought by Norma McCorvey, who had assumed the pseudonym “Jane Roe” in order to remain anonymous as the lead plaintiff in Roe v. Wade. However, in 1995 – more than two decades after her efforts led to the legalization of abortion – McCorvey converted to Christianity and stated that she no longer supported abortion rights.

Attorneys for McCorvey said she challenged the Roe v. Wade ruling because of evidence that shows abortion is harmful to women.

The Court declined to hear McCorvey’s appeal without comment or recorded dissent.

Ira Carmen, a University political science professor who teaches a class on the Supreme Court, said he was not at all surprised by the decision.

“The current Court has made it clear that it does not want to consider Roe v. Wade,” Carmen said. “The Court’s membership hasn’t changed for over a decade, and they have declined to entertain challenges to abortion for a number of years.”

However, three justices – Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – have said Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overturned.

Jo Kepler, president of Illini Collegians For Life, an anti-abortion group on campus, said she would also like to see the ruling overturned.

“Reopening the case would certainly be a step in the right direction,” said Kepler, junior in engineering. Though disappointed by the Court’s decision, Kepler said she remains hopeful.

“I think there’s a lot of potential in the near future for more appeals to overturn Roe v. Wade,” she said.

With Chief Justice Rehnquist in ailing health and eight of the nine justices older than 65, the Court’s decision comes amid speculation over whether President George W. Bush will have the opportunity to appoint new justices to the Supreme Court before his term ends.

But Carmen said Bush might have difficulties in getting a nominee on to the Court.

“The issue of who’s going to take someone’s place on the United States Supreme Court is, by its nature, very provocative. It’s going to be a long and torturous process for any nominee,” Carmen said.

Carmen added that Senate Democrats might try to delay a nominee’s appointment by filibustering if they aren’t satisfied with the nominee’s credentials.

A nominee’s stance on abortion rights is certain to be one of the most significant of these credentials, he said.

“Roe v. Wade is the big enchilada,” Carmen said. “It’s the number-one question on the minds of the people who are asked to vote on a particular nominee.”

Erin Updegraff, treasurer of Campus for Choice, an abortion rights group on campus, found the Court’s decision encouraging.

“The Supreme Court deciding that abortion will remain legal for now is good news,” Updegraff, junior in business, said. “This is especially true because after President Bush was re-elected, it seemed very likely that conservatives would be pushing towards overturning Roe v. Wade.”

The last major abortion decision by the Supreme Court came from the Stenberg v. Carhart ruling in 2000. In that case, the court ruled 5-4 to strike down Nebraska’s ban on “partial-birth” abortions because the ban failed to provide an exception for cases where the mother’s health is at stake.