July 01, 2005

Justice O'Connor Retires

As most probably know by now, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has retired from the Supreme Court. This means that President Bush will be nominating a justice to fill the vacancy that she has left, and this means that President Bush will likely have the opportunity to appoint at least two justices to the Supreme Court: O'Connor's replacement, and the replacement for Chief Justice William Rehnquist when his inevitable retirement comes about.

As we prepare for the approaching battle over the Supreme Court, it is important for Catholics to remember that opposition to Roe v. Wade should not and cannot be the only value we look for in appointees to our nation's highest court. The court decides too many cases which have nothing to do with reproductive choice for us to limit the scope of our support to anyone who happens to stand opposed to the controversial 1973 decision which made abortion legal throughout the United States. As we see now with the presence of seven Republican appointees on the Supreme Court, opposition to Roe v. Wade prior to their appointments does not guarantee that justices will enforce that opposition once they're on the court. We cannot let a justice who would erode important civil rights laws, environmental protections, and labor rights be appointed to the Supreme Court just because he or she is opposed to Roe v. Wade. There is more at stake here than Roe v. Wade. The interpretation of the Constitution of the United States is at stake, and there is a very good possibility that President Bush will nominate a candidate who would radically reinterpret the Constitution to restrict a number of rights that we all hold dear.

For those who are inclined to look only at Roe v. Wade, as they did in the 2004 presidential election, consider this: If Roe v. Wade were overturned by the Supreme Court tomorrow, only seven states would have enforceable laws on the books that would prohibit most abortions. These seven states account for less than 10% of the American population, which means that more than a million abortions per year would still be performed in the United States even if President Bush appoints an anti-Roe justice to the Supreme Court who sways the court in opposition to Roe v. Wade. As much as the Republican Party would like us to believe that they have the answers to overcoming abortion in this country, they don't; we cannot be fooled again by their rhetoric, we cannot allow them to take ideological control of the Supreme Court because we credulously submit to the claim that an ideological appointment to the court will end abortion in America.

As we prepare for what is likely to be a fierce battle over the independence of the Supreme Court, let us offer the following prayers from the Roman Missal for President Bush, for the Senate, and for our nation:

God our Father,
all earthly powers must serve you.
Help your servant George W. Bush, our President
to fulfill his responsibilities worthily and well.
By honoring and striving to please you at all times,
may he secure peace and freedom
for the people entrusted to him.

you guide and govern everything with order and love.
Look upon the assembly of our national leaders
and fill them with the spirit of your wisdom.
May they always act in accordance with your will
and their decisions be for the peace and well-being of all.

God our Father,
you guide everything in wisdom and love.
Accept the prayers we offer for our nation;
by the wisdom of our leaders and integrity of our citizens,
may harmony and justice be secured
and may there be lasting prosperity and peace.

Let us also pray: Father God, we ask you, through the intercession of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Thomas More, to preserve the independence of our Supreme Court and the integrity of our nation's democracy. By the power of your Holy Spirit, guide President Bush and the senators who are charged with giving him advice and consent, that they will select a justice for our Supreme Court inspired by the gift of wisdom which you have so graciously granted to them in abundance. We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.