Bench Memos

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Roberts’s White House Counsel Records--Abortion


Two items are noteworthy (in addition to Roberts’s unequivocal condemnation of bombings and other acts of violence against abortion clinics):

1. In October 1985 Roberts was asked to review a proposed telegram to be sent from President Reagan to a memorial service to be held in Los Angeles for some 16,500 aborted fetuses that had been discovered at a medical laboratory in 1982. The draft telegram, quoting Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, stated that “just as the terrible toll of Gettysburg can be traced to a tragic decision of a divided Supreme Court, so also can the deaths we mourn.” It stated that Roe “made void all our laws protecting the lives of infants developing in their mothers’ wombs” and noted that “[o]nce again [as in Dred Scott] a whole category of human beings had been ruled outside the protection of the law by a court ruling which clashed with our deepest moral convictions.” The draft prayed that God would “speed the day when the right to life of every human being . . . is honored and protected by our laws and our public policy.”

Roberts wrote that he had “only one small objection” to the text of the draft telegram–namely, that it would be more accurate to say that Roe voided “many of our laws” rather than “all our laws.” He added that, in accord with Reagan’s position on abortion, a “memorial service would seem an entirely appropriate means of calling attention to the abortion tragedy.”

2. In June 1985 Roberts was asked to review talking points that had been drafted for President Reagan for a telephone call to an anti-abortion rally in Los Angeles. Approving the talking points, Roberts noted that they “call for reversing ‘the tragedy of Roe v. Wade,’ ” “not[e] advances in medical technology that permit increased care for the unborn, and applaud[] those who are providing compassionate alternatives to abortion.”


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