Copyright © 2005 Henrietta W. Hay
Replacing Justice O'Conner
July 15, 2005
"In some sense Sandra Day O'Connor became the most powerful woman in America by accident." I intended to start with words similar to those, but Molly Ivins beat me to it. In a country becoming more and more divided, Sandra O'Connor stood -- well, sat-- with courage, intelligence and plain old pragmatic good sense in the middle of the Supreme Court. Oh yes, she is a Republican. Oh well !!
When she resigned, she left the President with perhaps the most important decision he has ever had to make. In this time of tremendous need for calm and compromise, he is faced with anger and bitter divisiveness from both sides
Raised on a 50,000 acre cattle ranch in southern Arizona O'Connor loved horses and was used to rounding up cattle. She graduated from Stanford Law School and practiced law for several years, along with raising three sons. An interesting feminist sidelight: the first law firm she applied to refused to hire her as a lawyer, but offered a job as a secretary. Many years later the firm had to appear before her in the Supreme Court. She was appointed and later elected to the Arizona State Senate. She is the only member of the sitting Court who has had political experience.
Now the fight has begun. In fact, it started years ago. The Religious Right, which was a main supporter of Mr. Bush in the last election has been waiting for years for a chance to get a solid majority on the Supreme Court. Obviously they think that now is the time.
"Progress for America," a major conservative coalition has a financial goal of $13 million and has already started running
ads for whomever Bush chooses. The name of Alberto Gonzales, a long time Bush aide and currently Attorney General has was one of the first mentioned. Interestingly enough, the Religious Right immediately rose up against him. They are afraid he is not far enough to the Right.
Son Dave said, "Hmmm, he doesn't look so bad after all.
Paul Weyrich has said that nominating Mr. Gonzales , whose views on abortion are "suspect" by the religions conservatives would seriously damage the president's conservative backers.
So here we go -- the conservative Religious Right has had one goal since 1973 : to overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal again.
Over 75% of Americans favor Roe, but it has become the major public issue of the Religious Right.
Women' organizations like Planned Parenthood, Emily's List, National Association for Abortion Rights, are working at top speed to preserve Roe and women's rights to control their bodies.
Other issues of special concern to women, issues which have been opposed by the Bush Administration and are at risk with a right wing Court are birth control, including the emergency morning after pill and stem cell research. This means trying to get moderate, pragmatic Justice in the Court.
Other civil rights issues already before the court, or sure to be soon, are the intrusion of religion into government, , gay rights, the right to die, the death penalty.
This is a vitally important decision for President Bush. I hope it will be a woman with Sandra Day O'Connor's ability and her independent nature. But whomever he chooses I hope the appointee will be a practical, moderate American who will not automatically follow the party line -- either one-- but whose main concern will be upholding the Constitution.