Hospitalization of Supreme Court Chief Justice Reminds Conservatives of Election Stakes

The recent hospitalization of the U.S. Supreme Court’s leading conservative judge, William H. Rehnquist, due to thyroid cancer is serving as an opportune reminder that more is at stake during this election than the presidency but also likely vacant seat on the High Court’s bench during next presidential term.

Rehnquist, who turned 80 earlier this month, is the second oldest chief justice in history. The oldest was Roger Taney who served as on the bench until he died at the age of 87.

The chief justice spent the weekend in Bethesda Naval Hospital in suburban Maryland, and underwent a tracheotomy and is expected to return to work next Monday.

In addition to being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the Nixon-appointed justice, has also undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon and struggled with chronic back pain.

“[T]he hospitalization of Justice William H. Rehnquist and his battle with thyroid cancer was reported, bringing the urgency of the ‘judges issue’ back into prominence just eight days before our national elections,” said Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, in his daily e-mail update.

“As we offer prayers for the health of Chief Justice Rehnquist, the importance of his work and the need for good, constitutionalists on our nation's courts is highlighted once again,” he wrote.

Perkins reminded his readers of “the negative impact of the activism of Supreme Court Justice Blackman in 1973, who gave us the most horrendous ruling of our time, Roe v. Wade, allowing millions of unborn babies to meet their very early deaths.”

President Bush has repeatedly said he would not require Supreme Court nominees to take a litmus test and appoint them based on their ability to interpret the Constitution. Sen. John Kerry has made it clear that he would not nominate any judge with an intention to overturn Roe v. Wade.