Wednesday, October 19, 2005

1989 Questionnaire Still Lets Miers Thread the Needle on Abortion

The 1989 Texans United for Life questionnaire that Harriet Miers filled out certainly establishes Miers as a pro-lifer. But as her boyfriend Justice Nathan Hecht has said, being a pro-lifer doesn't automatically mean Miers will always rule with the pro-life (or anti-choice) side.

Specifically, the questionnaire asks:

If Congress passes a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit abortion except when it was necessary to prevent the death of the mother, would you actively support its ratification by the Texas Legislature?
Miers answers, "yes." A couple of points here. Miers' answer suggests that she would like to see women stripped of the right to choose abortion. This does not, however, mean that she interprets existing law as denying that right. It also does not mean that she agrees with legal arguments that there is no right to choose. You could even make the argument that, if Miers truly thinks a constitutional amendment is necessary, this might indicate that she thinks the current, unamended Constitution allows for abortion rights. Why else, after all, would an amendment be needed?

The entire questionnaire illustrates nothing more than a personal anti-choice agenda, and a willingness to pursue that agenda, legislatively, within the confines of the law. It does not, however, shed any light on whether this officially, proudly self-proclaimed non-legislator-from-the-bench sees any basis in existing law for denying women the right to choose.

An interesting test of how much faith the Christian right is willing to extend Bush these days will come when we see how legalistic the leaders of the Christian right are in interpreting this questionnaire. If they see the same wiggle room I've identified, and cite that wiggle room as cause for doubt, Bush's nomination remains in deep trouble.

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