.- In the wake of the death of Chief Supreme Court Justice William R. Rehnquist at his Virginia home Saturday night, pro-life groups across the country are mourning for his loss and praying fervently for his successor on a Supreme Court heatedly divided on right to life issues.
Rehnquist, who was the last remaining member of the court who handed down the infamous Roe vs. Wade decision, was widely acclaimed as a strong voice for the dignity of life.
Although the judge was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last October, his death in light of Supreme Court judicial nominee John Robert's confirmation hearings this week, came as a surprise to many. President Bush has now opted to nominate Robert's to fill Rehnquist's shoes as Supreme Court Justice--a move sure to please pro-life groups.
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) noted that Millions of pro-life Americans are now mourning the death of Rehnquist. NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson pointed out that the 80-year old judge had "dissented from the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion on demand in 1973. He consistently voted to allow elected lawmakers to decide when and how to protect unborn human life, most recently as one of four dissenting justices who said that states should be allowed to ban partial-birth abortion."
Fr. Frank Pavone, president of Priests for Life said that, "Throughout his career, Chief Justice Rehnquist was a strong defender of the Constitution. He strictly applied the Constitution and exercised proper restraint by supporting the right of legislatures to settle political matters rather than abuse the power of the Court by legislating his own personal beliefs."
He added that, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Chief Justice Rehnquist. Our country and our movement will remember him fondly.
Fr. Pavone also expressed full confidence "that the President will replace him on the Court with someone who will live up to the high standards that he has set for judicial restraint and strict application of the Constitution."
Jan LaRue, of Concerned Women for America said that "We have lost a noble American who loved and served his country with great honor and distinction. His continued service as he endured aggressive and debilitating treatment for cancer was an inspiration."
"Chief Justice Rehnquist", she said, "never deviated from his strong pro-life interpretation of the Constitution and the right of the states to regulate abortion and ban partial birth abortion...He considered Roe v. Wade as an affront to the Constitution--a position shared by most constitutional scholars, pro-life and pro-choice."
Judge Rehnquist was one of two dissenting votes in the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision and wrote on the court's doctrine of abortion, that "To reach its result, the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment."
The Supreme Court is currently split 6-2 in favor of upholding national abortion laws but split in a much tighter 5-4 in favor of partial birth abortion--something many life-advocates think can be overturned.
Yesterday, the Rev. Rob Schenck, head of the National Clergy Council led a prayer vigil on the steps of the Supreme Court both thanking God for Judge Rehnquist’s presence on the court and praying for his successor.
This morning, President Bush nominated Judge John Roberts, who was set to be confirmed to the seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor later this week, as Rehnquist's replacement and new chief justice.
He also called on the Senate to Confirm Roberts before the Court reconvenes on October 3rd.
Roberts has received what many call unwarranted scrutiny for his Catholic faith--something many see as an unwarranted religious litmus test.
Although Roberts hasn't publicly expressed his own views on abortion, the potential presence of two new pro-life judges on the court could have huge ramifications for the future of abortion practices in the U.S.