Daily Archives: September 12, 2008

Roe v. Wade and the Court That Made the Decision

One of the talking points of both Democrats and Republicans, but especially “social conservatives” which have dominated the Republican Party platform for the last 20-30 years is that the choice of President is important because of the Supreme Court Justices that the President would nominate.  This talking point inevitably points to the Roe v. Wade decision from either side as the reason this issue is so important.

For those less inclined to follow politics, the theory goes that a Republican President would be likely to nominate Supreme Court Justices in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade and the reverse is true of Democrats, that a Democratic President would be more inclined to nominate Supreme Court Justices in favor of maintaining Roe v. Wade.

All of this debate, however, ignores the original decision in the case.  Yes, we all recall whether with esteem or derision that so-called “right to privacy” that the majority decision used as a basis for the decision.  However, does anyone recall the composition of the court at the time of the decision?  Surely it was packed with steaming liberals that wanted to enforce some Berkeley morality on everyone and the conservatives were screaming “NO NO you can’t do that!” until they withered in a clump in the corner.

Not true.  Roe v. Wade was decided 7-2.  The court was comprised of six Justices nominated by Republican Presidents and three by Democratic Presidents.  The vote was 5-1 among the Republican-nominated and 2-1 among the Democratic-nominated.  See the chart at the end of the post for reference (justice name, president who nominated, how they voted on Roe v. Wade).

Now, I am no lawyer and certainly no constitutional scholar.  But, even this keenly interested observer was surprised by this revelation.  Could it be that this talking point used to keep the party faithful in line is nothing but a scare tactic?  I know people who vote exclusively on this point alone (which is disturbing in and of itself) and it would appear they have swallowed a party line that is not the truth.

Next time someone wants to use this line of argument for why they are voting a certain way, I hope you will find this helpful in illuminating the conversation with some reality rather than just another pile of political rhetoric.

Burger (Chief) Nixon For
Douglas FDR For
Brennan Eisenhower For
Stewart Eisenhower For
White Kennedy Against
Marshall LBJ For
Blackmun Nixon For
Powell Nixon For
Rehnquist Nixon Against

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