Thursday, September 15, 2005
Editorial: Kilgore should answer the question
Though the GOP gubernatorial hopeful dismissed a hypothetical abortion ban as irrelevant, two high court openings may prove him wrong.
From the RoundTable blog
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Moderator Tim Russert threw a curve ball to Republican Jerry Kilgore during Tuesday's gubernatorial debate that left the candidate flailing. But Russert's question was a fair one.
If a new U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, he started off, would Kilgore sign a bill to outlaw abortion in Virginia?
"That's a hypothetical," the pro-life Republican replied, stepping away from the plate.
"If the Virginia legislature passed a tax increase, would you veto it or sign it?" the wily host of NBC's "Meet the Press" followed up.
Mistaking the curve for a fastball coming straight across the plate, Kilgore swung for the bleachers: "I'd veto a tax increase that wasn't approved in a referendum."
"That's a hypothetical question!" Russert countered. The crowd roared.
Tripping up a politician with his own words is an entertaining pastime, and Kilgore looked the fool to be made such easy sport.
Underlying the word play, though, a serious question remains.
This week's Senate hearings on John Roberts' nomination as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court makes clear: Senators voting on his confirmation cannot know if the conservative jurist regards Roe v. Wade as settled law or would overturn it as a precedent that has proven to be "unworkable."
Roberts is more than a match for his interrogators.
Despite his ambiguity, most conservatives appear confident Roberts has left the door open to overturning the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion. With retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's seat still to be filled, a new conservative court majority could do just that.
The matter then would be left to state legislatures to decide. If Virginia's General Assembly passed a ban, would the governor veto the bill, or sign it? Voters on either side of the issue need to know.
Democrat Tim Kaine is a Catholic who says he personally opposes abortion. But he pledged to veto any laws that would criminalize abortion for patients or physicians. Kilgore, who opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother's life, said he would oppose criminal penalties against women who have the procedure, but he was mum on physicians who perform it.
If a woman seeking an abortion must go to practitioners operating illegally, states will have reopened those back alleys Roe was thought to have closed off forever.