I wrote earlier in the week about Dianne Feinstein’s roll in the upcoming Roberts nomination and her pledge to query Roberts on his views on abortion. Yesterday in a speech to the Los Angeles County Bar Association, Feinstein recalled the days when abortion was illegal.
“I remember what it was like when abortion was illegal,” Feinstein said in remarks at a Los Angeles County Bar Association luncheon. “When I was a college student, I watched the passing of the plate to collect money so young women could go to Tijuana for an abortion. I knew a woman who ended her life because she was pregnant.”
As the first and only woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee that holds hearings and forwards a recommendation on confirmation to the full Senate, Feinstein told the largely supportive audience of 550 that she has a special responsibility to question Roberts on the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal.
The personal stories, she said in response to a reporter’s question following her 32-minute speech, help drive home the point.
“I think people forget,” she said. “Roe was decided in 1973. It gave women control of their reproductive systems that they hadn’t really had.”
In the 1960’s Feinstein served on the California Women’s Board of Terms and Parole (which no longer exists). Her role in that position was “to set sentences for those convicted of performing illegal abortions” and she “became familiar with the damage those procedures left behind.”
“I saw what they did. I saw how they did it, and I saw the morbidity they left in the wake. I do not want to go back to those days.”
As the only woman on the Judiciary Committee, Feinstein said, she has “an additional role to play in representing the views and concerns of 145 million American women.”
Feinstein also expressed concern “about Roberts’ view on what she called the court’s recent trend to curb congressional authority.”
But it was the abortion issue she returned to most frequently in a speech that at times sounded like the text from a scholarly law review article.
“Government should not be allowed to interfere in personal, family decisions and overrule the most difficult choices a family can make,” she said. “The question I have is how John Roberts will react to these real-life dilemmas when and if they come before him.”