Samuel Alito on Abortion
Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. George W. Bush 2005)
The vote was not a ruling on the legal merits of the restriction, but the decision to keep the law on hold signals that a majority of the justices have doubts about its constitutionality. Passed by the state legislature in 2014, the measure requires any doctor offering abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Plaintiffs argued that it was identical to a Texas law the Supreme Court struck down in 2016, in which the court said Texas imposed an obstacle on women seeking access to abortion services without providing them any medical benefits. Plaintiffs said Louisiana's law would leave only one doctor at a single clinic in New Orleans to perform the procedure.
In 1982 Pennsylvania had tightened its restrictions on abortion. In a memo on May 30, 1985, Alito wrote, "No one seriously believes that the Court is about to overrule Roe. But the Court's decision to review [the Pennsylvania case] may be a positive sign." He continued, "By taking these cases, the Court may be signaling an inclination to cut back. What can be made of this opportunity to advance the goals of bringing about the eventual overruling of Roe v. Wade and, in the meantime, of mitigating its effects?" Alito wound up recommending an aggressive line of attack against Roe. "We should make clear that we disagree with Roe v. Wade and would welcome the opportunity to brief the issue of whether, and if so to what extent, that decision should be overruled."
ALITO: What I have said about Roe is that if it were -- if the issue were to come before me, if I’m confirmed and I’m on the Supreme Court and the issue comes up, the first step in the analysis for me would be the issue of stare decisis. And that would be very important. If I were to get beyond that, I would approach that question the way I approach every legal issue that I approach as a judge, and that is to approach it with an open mind and to go through the whole judicial process, which is designed, and I believe strongly in it, to achieve good results, to achieve good decision-making.
ALITO: The things that I said in the 1985 memo were a true expression of my views at the time from my vantage point as an attorney in the Solicitor General’s office. But that was 20 years ago and a great deal has happened in the case law since then. Thornburg was decided and Webster and then Casey and a number of other decisions. So the stare decisis analysis would have to take account of that entire line of case law.
ALITO: Roe v. Wade is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. It was decided in 1973. So it’s been on the books for a long time. It has been challenged on a number of occasions. The Supreme Court has reaffirmed the decision; sometimes on the merits; sometimes--in Casey--based on stare decisis.
DURBIN: Is it the settled law of the land?
ALITO: If “settled” means that it can’t be reexamined, then that’s one thing. If “settled” means that it is a precedent, then it is protected, entitled to respect under the doctrine of stare decisis in that way.
DURBIN: How do you see it?
ALITO: It a precedent that has now been on the books for several decades. It has been challenged. It has been reaffirmed. But it is an issue that is involved in litigation now at all levels.
In his concurrence, Alito cites the U.S. Supreme Court?s decision in Stenberg v. Carhart in support of upholding a lower court?s decision to permanently
enjoin (i.e., prevent) enforcement of New Jersey’s Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1997
-- Abortion Ban Act is held unconstitutional
Alito?s dissenting opinion is often cited by opponents of abortion. In it, he concluded that ?Pennsylvania has a legitimate interest in furthering the husband’s interest in the fate of the fetus,? under the state?s abortion notification law. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently ruled in the case, and disagreed with Alito.
|Other Justices on Abortion:||Samuel Alito on other issues:|
Samuel Alito(since 2006)
Amy Coney Barrett(since 2020)
Stephen Breyer(since 1994)
Neil Gorsuch(since 2017)
Ketanji Brown Jackson(nominated 2022)
Elena Kagan(since 2010)
Brett Kavanaugh(since 2018)
John Roberts(since 2005)
Sonia Sotomayor(since 2009)
Clarence Thomas(since 1991)
Merrick Garland(nominated 2016)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg(1993-2020)
John Paul Stevens(1975-2010)
Sandra Day O'Connor(1981-2006)
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