GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney wants the Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade. He called Roe “one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history.” And there is video of him saying that he wants to appoint Supreme Court justices who will reverse Roe.
Yet, at a Republican Jewish Coalition event on Monday, former senator and top Romney surrogate Norm Coleman (R-MN) was asked to address the concerns of “voters who are worried about the influence of religious conservatives on the Republican Party.” Rather than accurately convey Romney’s position on the issue, Coleman pretended that Romney would somehow be powerless against Roe:
The reality is, uh, choice is an issue for a lot of people, an important issue. President Bush was president eight years, Roe v. Wade wasn’t reversed. He had two Supreme Court picks, Roe v. Wade wasn’t reversed. It’s not going to be reversed.
Math is a notoriously difficult subject for Romney and his campaign, but there is a simple explanation for why President Bush was not able to overrule Roe. Overruling a Supreme Court precedent requires five votes, and the two justices Bush appointed — plus staunchly anti-Roe Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — add up to less than five. Now, however, three justices who have at times voted to uphold abortion rights are over the age of 74. If just one leaves the Court, the next president could easily appoint the fifth vote to kill Roe.
More importantly, while Coleman is correct that a shadow of Roe remains law today, it is simply false to suggest that Bush’s appointees did not succeed in significantly rolling back women’s reproductive freedoms. In their very first full term on the Court, Bush’s two appointees joined a 5-4 decision claiming abortion rights should be restricted because “some women come to regret” their own choices when they are allowed to make them. If President Bush had not replaced Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, this decision would have come down the other way.
As a recent Center for American Progress Action Fund report explains, Roe is just one of many precedents that is at risk in a Romney Supreme Court. By contrast, should President Obama replace one of the Court’s conservatives, the result could be a new renaissance for democracy, consumers and workers rights: