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Abortion rights group pulls anti-Roberts ad

Lawmaker, watchdog group call ad misleading



Supreme Court
Nancy Keenan

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- NARAL Pro-Choice America said late Thursday it was pulling a controversial advertisement in which the abortion rights group accused Supreme Court nominee John Roberts of "supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted bomber."

The decision to withdraw the ad came after Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a scathing letter to the group, calling the 30-second ad "blatantly untrue and unfair."

The bombing shown in the video occurred seven years after Roberts filed a legal brief cited in the ad, according to Annenberg Political Fact Check. The non-profit group added that the brief also dealt with abortion clinics' ability to use an anti-discrimination statute against anti-abortion demonstrators.

In a response to Specter, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League President Nancy Keenan wrote, "Unfortunately, the debate over that advertisement has become a distraction from the serious discussion we hoped to have with the American public.

"We also regret that many people have misconstrued our recent advertisement about Mr. Roberts' record," Keenan said.

She told Specter the group "will continue to educate the public about the threat we firmly believe Mr. Roberts' elevation to the Supreme Court would have on American women's reproductive health and, ultimately, their lives."

The ad is being replaced, Keenan said, by another that "examines Mr. Roberts' record on several points, including his advocacy for overturning Roe v. Wade, his statement questioning the right to privacy, and his arguments against using a federal civil rights law to protect women and their doctors and nurses from those who use blockades and intimidation."

The original ad aired on CNN, which also ran an ad supporting Roberts' candidacy by the Progress for America group. The NARAL ad had criticized Roberts, saying he had "filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted court bomber."

"America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans," the ad said.

Specter, who supports abortion rights, urged the group to cancel the ad because it "unfairly attacks" Roberts.

"In our free society, anyone can speak out as they choose on any subject. I am concerned that the Roberts nomination, or others to follow, may provide an occasion for such advertising to get out of hand," Specter said. "The NARAL television advertisement is blatantly untrue and unfair. ... "

"May I also suggest that the NARAL advertisement is not helpful to the pro-choice cause which I support. When NARAL puts on such an advertisement, in my opinion it undercuts its credibility and injures the pro-choice cause."

President Bush nominated Roberts, a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to fill the Supreme Court seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The 50-year-old appears to have wide bipartisan support as he heads toward the confirmation process.

During the Reagan administration, Roberts was a special assistant to Attorney General William French Smith and later served in the White House counsel's office.

In the administration of Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, Roberts served as principal deputy to Solicitor General Ted Olson, whose job was to advocate the administration's legal position in court, including before the Supreme Court.

NARAL will unveil a new ad on Monday.

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