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Remarks by Planned Parenthood Federation of America Interim President Karen Pearl

Standing here with me are representatives from Planned Parenthood affiliates from across the nation. We have come from every region of the country to Capitol Hill today because what is at stake in the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court chief justice nominee John Roberts is nothing less than women's health and lives. The very fabric of the freedoms that we have come to take for granted are at risk in this Supreme Court nomination battle.

Yesterday Judge Roberts provided no assurance that he would support our reproductive freedoms. In fact, his answers combined with his record can only lead us to the conclusion that the confirmation of Judge Roberts will pose a danger to fundamental freedoms and to women's health and lives.

Planned Parenthood opposes the nomination of Judge John Roberts as Chief Justice to the United States Supreme Court, and we strongly urge all senators to vote no on his nomination.

The American public is not fooled by answers that dodge important questions. We all deserve straightforward answers to questions that address our established freedoms. The Senate hearings have demonstrated to millions of Americans that Judge Roberts will not reveal his views on the breadth of right to privacy that the Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed guarantees access to reproductive health care, including abortion.

Yesterday, Judge Roberts said that he agrees that the right to privacy exists in the Constitution — but he refused to support privacy related to reproductive freedom beyond the norms of 1965. We know he supports the rights of married people to get contraception — but he refused to discuss any progress that society or the law has made in regard to privacy since that decision, including Roe v. Wade.

This testimony was striking in its similarity to the testimony presented by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on the same matter. Justice Thomas also spoke about the constitutional right to privacy during his hearings and also refused to comment on whether the right extended to Roe. Just months after being confirmed to the court, Justice Thomas issued a decision in favor of dismantling Roe v. Wade.

Yesterday Judge Roberts said that there was precedent upholding Roe v. Wade. But he carefully allowed for the possibility of dismantling Roe by not commenting on whether those precedents are still relevant.

All of these statements were carefully constructed to leave the door open to erode or overrule the very freedoms that they address.

Again and again during these hearings, Judge Roberts has evaded senators' questions. Again and again, he has refused to give Americans a straight answer to questions about our right to choose. He would not tell us whether he believes that the precedents affirming Roe have been eroded. When asked by Senator Biden whether he agreed with Justice Ginsburg that a state law banning abortion would be unconstitutional, he refused to respond.

Yet, when pressed by Senator Sessions about whether he would commit to remain open to evaluating whether Roe should be overruled he responded, without hesitation, "Absolutely, Senator."

We base our opposition to Judge Roberts not only on what we heard at the hearings, but also on his record.

As a government lawyer, advancing the views of administrations openly hostile to the right to choose, Roberts dismissed Americans' settled constitutional right to choose, the fundamental principle articulated in Roe v. Wade.

He wrote, Roe "find[s] no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution," and he has called the decision "unprincipled jurisprudence."

As a government lawyer, John Roberts twice became involved in litigation to defend the legal position rights of anti-choice protestors who blocked women's access to reproductive health care with harassment and threats of violence.

In both cases, he stood silent on the deplorable tactics of the protestors, and did absolutely nothing to preserve the freedoms of women seeking to exercise their constitutionally protected right to choose.

We oppose Judge Roberts' nomination because he has refused to give us any indication that he believes that the right to privacy extends to our reproductive freedoms, including a woman's right to choose abortion.

We oppose Judge Roberts' nomination because he has given us no confidence that he understands how important these rights are to women and to all Americans.

We oppose Judge Roberts' because he refuses to acknowledge the right to choose and our settled constitutional freedoms.

We are left with no choice but to assume that Judge Roberts shares the view, articulated in his past writings, that Roe should be overruled.

If Judge Roberts is confirmed to serve as chief justice of the Supreme Court, his decisions will affect the life of every American for generations to come, but the lives of women most of all — in particular women like those we serve at Planned Parenthood who because of poverty, youth, or circumstance, are the most vulnerable of all.

Tomorrow, when I testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will urge the Senate to oppose the nomination of John Roberts to become the next chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.


Planned Parenthood Federation of America




May 13, 2014