Bench Memos

Searching for Common Ground

Taking President Obama at his word, when he called for people to seek “common ground” on abortion and to reduce its incidence, law prof Michael Stokes Paulsen of Minnesota’s University of St. Thomas propounds five questions for the president at  Each is a challenge to President Obama to live up to his own stated desires.  Here’s part of Paulsen’s fifth challenge to Obama:

Mr. President, it would go a long way to demonstrating your seriousness in seeking common ground if you would nominate for this seat someone who does not have a previously announced commitment to abortion rights and support for Roe v. Wade. David Souter famously had no previously stated views on this issue before being named to the Court. Mr. President, if you are serious in seeking common ground, will you commit to naming no one to the Supreme Court based on a pro-abortion or pro-Roe litmus test, or who has previously committed himself or herself to such a position?

This is a perfectly reasonable request to make of someone who has said what Obama has said.  What’s more, the failure to meet this challenge would provide a perfectly good ground for senators to vote against a nominee.  “Vote nay on a committed pro-abortion jurist” is an obvious, a just, and an effective rallying point in response to the president’s nomination, if he doesn’t meet Paulsen’s challenge.

Matthew J. Franck — Matthew J. Franck is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.

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