The theocratic right is busily defining Diane Wood as a radical extremist hell-bent on aborting every child in America, because they actually have rulings where she has ruled in abortion cases.
If President Obama nominates U.S. Circuit Judge Diane P. Wood to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, social conservatives say they intend to make her rulings on abortion rights the primary point of contention.
“That’s her Achilles’ heel,” said Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice, which opposes Wood’s rulings on abortion. “It tells you that she’s probably not going to be selected, because Obama doesn’t have the stomach for this to be about an abortion debate.”
I don’t think Levey’s entirely wrong about that, but let’s look at what he’s really talking about. Wood, who counts among her supporters and friends right-wing judges Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner, has over her career issued opinions opposing a ban on late-term abortions, opposing a waiting period for women who wanted abortions and favoring laws that would help stop violence at abortion clinics. Far from putting her outside the judicial mainstream, this puts her firmly within it – and almost identical to the positions Justice John Paul Stevens has taken on the federal bench. The final case did get overturned by the high court, but turned on applications of RICO laws and not the legality or illegality of violence at abortion clincs per se.
The far right has pretty expertly defined the terms of the debate on the Supreme Court. Judges who rule with the actual settled law in abortion cases are outside the mainstream, radical, crazy. Judges who rule to overturn the settled law are wise and judicious. None of this has changed. Diane Wood is “unacceptable” only because she had the misfortune to rule on abortion cases, unlike her rivals for the appointment who have not. Her rulings actually show the kind of judge she would be, and they remark favorably on her, but in this day and age, having a record is about the worst way to get on the Supreme Court. It’s a shame, because she’s clearly the most qualified potential nominee currently under discussion.