It’s the Supreme Court, Stupid

The Next President's Picks Could Determine the Fate of Roe v. Wade 

In the long run, these two elections may have more impact on women's reproductive freedom than the presidential race. For the past eight years the House of Representatives has been in Republican hands, something pro-choice advocates are desperate to change, so that, as Saporta says, "we won't have to deal with a new piece of legislation every month that's trying to limit women's right to choose." While pundits predict Republicans will maintain control of the House, they don't expect staunch anti-choice candidates to gain a majority.

The real battle for pro-choice advocates will be in the Senate—because it is there that court nominees are approved, by a two-thirds majority vote. In the unlikely event that anti-choice candidates win all 34 available seats, they will still fall a few votes shy of the 67 needed for the majority. The more immediate danger comes from moderate candidates, many of whom call themselves pro-choice but nevertheless believe in passing legislation restricting women's reproductive rights—and will probably approve justices who feel the same way. So frightening is this prospect that even some Republicans are starting to sound alarm bells. "We cannot endorse a candidate who follows the current Republican abortion platform," says Lynn Grefe, national director of the Republican Pro-Choice coalition. "We support our party, we are firm Republicans, but we will not endorse George W. Bush unless he changes his stance on abortion."

The schism in the Republican Party may play into the hands of Al Gore, who is busy extolling his pro-choice record to anyone who will listen. And that may be all the millions of people who value reproductive freedom need to hear. As voters start to study the issues, pro-choice advocates hope to drive one point home: Senators, representatives, even United States presidents come and go; Supreme Court justices can last a very long lifetime.

Research assistance: Shelley E. Molina

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