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John Roberts: Architect of Laissez-Faire Policy Concerning Clinic Violence?

Focus on John Roberts and Clinic Violence

Washington, DC – The Feminist Majority and its president, Eleanor Smeal, joined other leading women’s rights groups today in bringing into focus John Roberts’ role in Bray v. Alexandria as Deputy Solicitor General in co-authoring the government’s brief and arguing twice before the Supreme Court on behalf of Operation Rescue and six named petitioners, one of whom was a convicted federal felon for bombing and arsoning women’s clinics.

In setting the scene, the Feminist Majority prepared a background briefing on the extent of clinic violence at the time of the case and the impact of the loss on clinics, patients, and health care workers.

“Violence was extensive at the clinics at the time of the Bray decision. An estimated 50% of clinics were experiencing severe forms of violence including death threats, stalking, chemical attacks, arsons, bomb threats, invasions, and blockades,” said Smeal.

“Violence continued at clinics until the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act was enacted in 1994, which provided clinics with a federal tool to combat violent perpetrators who were crossing state lines and local jurisdictions,” Smeal continued.

“Roberts clearly did not have the vision to see the importance of a strong federal role in combating nationwide domestic terrorism. Instead of supporting federal judges who were granting injunctions to combat escalating violence, the Bush Administration was undercutting their authority. Roberts was a political appointee and a legal policy maker. Was Roberts the architect of the Bush Administration’s laissez faire stance toward protecting women’s clinics, patients, and health care workers?” Smeal asked.

“The current Bush Administration refuses to release Roberts’ papers concerning the Bray decision. What are the Bush Administration and Roberts hiding? Was Roberts the chief protagonist for the mistaken direction in combating violence that had to be reversed by the FACE Act and subsequent court cases?” Smeal asked.

“The Bush Administration’s role in entering the Bray case was undoubtedly decisive in the razor-thin 5-4 Supreme Court decision. The Court was widely speculated at the time to be deadlocked 4-4 the first time the case was heard. Eight days after the first hearing of the case, Justice Clarence Thomas joined the Court. The case was re-heard the next year and decided 5-4 on January 13, 1993, with Thomas’ vote making the majority,” said Smeal.

“Roberts’ role in Bray goes beyond the Roe v. Wade question. Not only must Americans be concerned if Roberts would reverse Roe, we must also be concerned if he would stand in the way of adequately protecting women’s clinics, patients, and health care workers. This is not an academic question. Violence still plagues clinics (although at a reduced rate than its peak in 1994). The Supreme Court will hear the NOW v. Scheidler case involving Pro-Life Action Network and Operation Rescue on November 30, 2005 for the third time,” Smeal said.

Read the Feminist Majority's Background Briefing Paper on John Roberts and the Bray case.


Feminist Majority’s sister organization, the Feminist Majority Foundation, runs the oldest and the largest clinic defense program in the country, working with some 643 independent clinics nationwide.

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