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What will the David Souter appointment mean?

By Jay Rogers
Published September 1, 1990

Late in July, President George Bush nominated David Souter for the position of the next Supreme Court Justice.

As soon as the nomination was announced, both pro-life and pro-abortion groups were scrambling to find a way to flush out Souter’s unknown stance on the abortion issue. Souter, a conservative who holds a strict constructionist method of interpreting the Constitution, has the rapt attention of groups that focus on abortion.

One day after the nomination, Kate Michelman of the National Abortion Rights Action League, met with a group of pro-abortion advocates to discuss her concern over Souter nomination. Judie Brown, president of the American Life League is also urging pro-life Senators to question Souter on his stance.

Yet, since Souter is a constructionist, his view on abortion may not matter. Constructionism applies the “original intent” of the Constitution to judicial matters. Souter’s approach is that of judicial restraint and adherence to the text of the Constitution. Souter fits President Bush’s description of a justice “who will be on there not to legislate from the bench, but to faithfully interpret the Constitution.”

In the 1989 Webster decision, four judges (Rehnquist, White, Kennedy and Scalia) wanted to overturn Roe vs. Wade. These justices are known to dispute the Constitutional basis for nationally recognized abortion rights. With the addition of Souter, the court may gain a majority of justices that view a women’s “fundamental right” to choose abortion as a fabrication of the 1972 Court.

With a constructionist majority, the Supreme Court would likely reverse the Roe vs. Wade decision. Many of the past decisions of the Court involved interpretations derived from “rights” found nowhere in the Constitution.

National Right to Life Committee spokesman Douglas Johnson said, “A judicial constructionist would continue the trend toward the abandonment of a tragic constitutional error. As a result, legislators should be free to adopt stronger legal protections for unborn babies.” Johnson later added, “We continue to believe that Roe vs. Wade cannot survive.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to commence confirmation hearings on Souter’s nomination on September 13.


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