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Alito against Roe v. Wade, 1985 Memo Reveals

In the most recently released memo, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito wrote that the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion should be overturned.

Alito against Roe v. Wade, 1985 Memo Reveals

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito should confidently stand by the newly released June 1985 memo where he wrote that the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion should be overturned, Christian conservatives said Friday.

“We would like to see Judge Alito maintain the same opinion confidently without apology,” said the Rev. Rob Schenck, a board member of the National Pro-Life Religious Council. “This memo will help greatly in garnering support from the pro-life community, but we will be disappointed if he backs away from this earlier position.”

The June 3, 1985 document in question was one of 45 released by the National Archives on Friday. In the memo, Alito said that the government “should make clear that we disagree with Roe v. Wade and would welcome the opportunity to brief the issue of whether, and if so to what extent, that decision should be overruled.”

The finding is certain to enliven Alito’s confirmation hearings, which are set to begin Jan. 9.

Abortion has played a key role in the confirmation process with liberals pushing for a firm defender of the Roe v. Wade ruling and conservatives seeking a strictly pro-life nominee to replace the key swing vote from Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who is retiring. She has been a supporter of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling affirming abortion rights.

Conservative and pro-family groups have generally backed Alito since his nomination was announced, largely because of his conservative track-record while serving under the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Alito meanwhile has sought to assure senators that he would put his private views aside when it came to voting on abortion.

In the most recently released memo, Alito’s views on abortion and the “unborn” was clear.

"While abortion involves essentially the same medical choice as other surgery, it involves in addition a moral choice, because the woman contemplating a first trimester abortion is given absolute and unreviewable authority over the future of the fetus," Alito wrote. "Should not then the woman be given relevant and objective information bearing on this choice? Roe took from the state lawmakers the authority to make this choice and gave it to the pregnant woman. Does it not follow that the woman contemplating abortion have at her disposal at least some of the same sort of information that we would want lawmakers to consider?"

Alito further argued that this piece-by-piece strategy to inform women about the moral implications of abortion is preferable to the “frontal assault on Roe v. Wade.”

"It has most of the advantage of a brief devoted to the overruling of Roe v. Wade; it makes our position clear, does not even tacitly concede Roe's legitimacy, and signals that we regard the question as live and open," Alito wrote.

He also wrote that the government may be able to change the impact of the ruling by nudging the court to “provide greater recognition of the states' interest in protecting the unborn throughout pregnancy, or to dispel in part the mystical faith in the attending physician that supports Roe and the subsequent cases."

Schenck, who also serves as president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Clergy Council, said the memo will help confirm the pro-life support base for Alito if the nominee stands by the past statements.

“It would be regrettable if he apologizes or dismisses it as nothing more than an obligation,” said Schenck. “We are calling for complete candor from the nominee to say what he believes.”

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