Those of us non-lawyers listening to yesterday's confirmation hearings  on Judge John Roberts or reading about them in today's papers may be understandably confused about where the man stands on reproductive rights. Much of the media coverage of the hearings merely reports Roberts' repeated references to previous rulings on abortion as "settled law." And most articles reference Roberts' affirmation of a general right to privacy. (You can almost hear the implied "phew!") But when Roberts' answers are interpreted by experts on both sides of the abortion debate, a far more troubling picture emerges. Roberts is outlining a roadmap to reversing Roe .
<!--StartFragment -->"John Roberts Provides Basis for Reversing Roe v. Wade Abortion Case" gushed LifeNews.com  yesterday. And the Family Research Council "applauded"  Roberts' responses to questions about Roe. ConfirmThem.com  —the conservative website that tracks judicial confirmation issues (slogan: God Save the United States and this Honorable Court )—posted several entries describing their delight with Roberts' answers on Roe specifically  and privacy  generally, including this ebullient post:
<!--StartFragment -->A top-flight, leading conservative pro-life lawyer with a vibrant Supreme Court practice whose name most readers of this forum would know just walked into the room where I’m sitting. He was thrilled about Roberts’ answers during the dialogue with Specter and indicated his strong approval and endorsement. He explained that Roberts’s answer was carefully framed to provide a basis for revisiting and overturning Roe in the future . Specifically, he indicated that Roberts said that precedent could be overturned on the basis of changing circumstances. [emphasis mine]
Many moderates and liberals expressed relief over Roberts' repeated assurances that he would abide bystare decisis  . On Democracy Now  this morning, NOW's Kim Gandy explained why it's wrong to give too much weight to those statements as they relate to his views on reproductive rights. Gandy argued that Roberts' statements that previous abortion rulings deserve respect under stare decisis are meaningless. He's merely indicating his recognition for settled law, not an agreement with the substance of that law, she explained. And viewed in light of what Roberts described as the factors he believes are the basis for reversing settled law—erosion, workability, reliance, extensive disagreement—Gandy sees much to fret over in his answers.
The National Women's Law Center's blog NominationWatch  offers a useful dissection of Roberts' answers about reversing settled law here . The bloggers at NWLC agree with Gandy that Roberts' testimony, while evasive and ambiguous, is laying out what Gandy calls a "roadmap for overruling Roe ."