For the past 25 years, Supreme Court nomination battles have often been proxy skirmishes in the culture wars, particularly over abortion, which has been a litmus test for any potential court nominee. But with his appointment of DC Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, President Barack Obama has left the anti-abortion foes a bit stymied.
That’s because the DC Circuit, where Garland has served for the past 19 years, almost never ends up on the frontlines of the culture wars; cases involving abortion or gay marriage rarely appear on its docket, which is heavily weighted with regulatory issues. And as someone who spent most of his pre-judicial career as a federal prosecutor, Garland hasn’t had many opportunities to weigh in on Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Despite having gone through the judicial confirmation process once before, and having been vetted for the Supreme Court in 2010, his record on the subject appears to be almost entirely blank. So the anti-abortion groups that have played such a huge role in prior court nomination fights have been struggling to find a really good reason to oppose him, aside from the fact that he was chosen by Obama.
Finally, one of those groups appears to have hit the opposition-research jackpot. Americans United for Life, which refers to itself as “the nation’s premier pro-life legal team,” today sent out a press release reiterating its opposition to the Senate holding confirmation hearings on any of Obama’s Supreme Court nominees this year. Garland is “Obama’s pro-abortion pick,” the group asserted.
As evidence for its position, AUL points to this little bit of unconvincing evidence: Apparently, Garland once spoke at a gathering celebrating the 2005 release of a book on the late Justice Harry Blackmun by veteran New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse. After Blackmun’s death, Greenhouse had drawn heavily on the release of a huge treasure trove of Blackmun’s papers—papers Garland called “a great gift to the country.” Blackmun was the author of Roe v. Wade.
Acting AUL President Clarke Forsythe promised to help disseminate more such incriminating information to help the Senate decide what to do with Garland’s nomination. “Americans United for Life looks forward to assisting the Senate leadership in evaluating prospective nominees when the time is right,” he said.