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Now we know for sure what we don't know: How Miers would vote in Roe v. Wade

Supreme Court Nominee Harriet Miers told Sen. Charles Schumer yesterday that nobody knows her views on Roe v. Wade. But now that we've read the answers Miers gave in 1989 to an anti-abortion group while she was running for Dallas City Council, we don't need to ask what she thinks of legal abortion. We know--or do we?

In 1989, Harriet Miers supported "a constitutional amendment banning abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother," when she ran for Dallas City Council, according to an unsigned questionnaire that the Bush administration confirms Miers completed, reports Jesse J. Holland of The AP. SCOTUSblogger Lyle Denniston provides Miers' exact answers to the committee's questionnaire, as follows:

"If Congress passes a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit abortion except when it was necessary to prevent the death of the mother, would you actively support its ratification by the Texas Legislature?"

Answer: Yes.

"If the Supreme Court returns to the states the right to restrict abortion, would you actively support legislation that would reinstate our 1973 abortion law that prohibited all abortions except those necessary to prevent the death of the mother?"

Answer: Yes.

"Will you oppose the use of public monies for abortion except where necessary to prevent the death of the mother?"

Answer: Yes.

"Will you oppose the use of City funds or facilities by any persons, groups, clinics or organizations to promote, encourage or provide referrals for abortions?"

Answer: Yes.

Howard Bashman links to The Washington Post link to the actual document (PDF).

Now we know -- or do we? For the first time, a Republican Senator indicates we don't...

The Reuters story (carried by the Post, also linked by Bashman), quotes a White House spokeswoman attempting to distinguish between then-Politician Miers and now-Supreme-Court-Nominee Miers:

"A candidate taking a political position in the course of a campaign is different from the role of a judge making a ruling in the judicial process," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino."

Updated graph: Don't miss Ann Althouse on this interpretation. I agree with her -- and I think the selling of this particular candidate in the past week--both over and under-the-counter--makes this appropriate distinction of roles (so appropriate-sounding with the nomination of Roberts, who worked for Reagan and then served as a judge) sound disingenuous where Miers is concerned.

And in that light, I am now thoroughly confused by Perino's statement. Um, who is this quote attempting to mollify--or help? Surely not the conservative foot soldiers who continue to riot over President Bush's decision not to appoint a justice in the mold of Messrs. Scalia or a Thomas, to professor Bainbridge's point. After the past week of spinorific behavior by the White House, including conference-calling the God Squad, we can assume that they're working to shore up Miers' nomination and avoid a humiliating withdrawal. But do evangelicals who believe abortion is morally wrong want to hear that Miers was playing conservative politics with a sacred issue and might behave differently (aka more Griswold-y) as a justice?

And surely this statement cannot in any way be designed to tip off Democrats that Miers is less scary than she suddenly seems. By sending a strong signal that the high court's replacement swing-voter was willing to play politics with the female uterus--hey, perhaps even her own given that it was way back in 1989--the pro-choice lobby has all the evidence it needs to rattle every pro-choice voter in the country.

What to do, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? The White House played the spokeswoman card, Perino, and, to be fair, I can see why. After all, in the White House press room yesterday, the week-old soggy rhetoric continued to hit the fan. From the comfort of her brass-name-plated seat, Helen Thomas used same as an obstacle course for Spokesman Scott McLellan, as you can see from a post by The Volokh Conspiracy's Orin Kerr. While VC commenter Huggy says (s)he'd like the press to disclose their agendas on these issues, too, I daresay the questions and answers (make that heavy on the direct q's and light on the meandering non-a's) speak for themselves: Whole lotta nothing going on.

Which is perhaps why today is the very first time a Republican senator, David Vitter of Louisiana, issued this statement according to a wire story on CBSNews: "My top questions are: does she have a consistent and well-grounded conservative judicial philosophy and what objective evidence is there of it from her life's work?"

Perhaps Democrats will agree with Republicans to open confirmation hearings on Nov. 7 so that we can all find out.

Related: Guestblogging over at Crime and Federalism, Maren Chaloupka says that if the United States wanted to celebrate a real pit bull in size-six shoes, we've missed the boat.

Posted by Laurel Newby on October 18, 2005 at 02:51 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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