Abortion Rights Group Yanks Controversial Ad on Roberts

An abortion rights group is withdrawing a heavily criticized television ad that linked John Roberts to violent anti-abortion activists, saying its attempt to illuminate the Supreme Court nominee’s record has been “misconstrued.”

After protests by conservatives, NARAL Pro-Choice America said Thursday night it would pull the ad that began running this week.

“We regret that many people have misconstrued our recent advertisement about Mr. Roberts’ record,” NARAL President Nancy Keenan said.

“Unfortunately, the debate over that advertisement has become a distraction from the serious discussion we hoped to have with the American public,” she said in a letter Thursday to Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who earlier in the day had urged the group to withdraw the ad.

Specter, himself an abortion-rights supporter as well as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will question Roberts next month, said the ad was “blatantly untrue and unfair.”

The NARAL ad criticized Roberts and linked him with violent anti-abortion protesters because of the anti-abortion briefs he worked on as a government lawyer in 1991.

“The NARAL advertisement is not helpful to the pro-choice cause which I support,” Specter said in a letter to Keenan.

Keenan’s response said the group would replace the ad with one 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.”

NARAL had planned a $500,000 campaign to show the ad for two weeks on cable channel CNN, and on CBS, NBC and ABC TV affiliates in Rhode Island and Maine.

At least one station already had refused to run the ad. Mike Young, vice president and general manager of WABI-TV in Bangor, said his station ran the ad before deciding to pull it Thursday after receiving a challenge from the Republican National Committee.

“After careful thoughtful analysis, we determined the ad was at worst false, and at best misleading,” he said.

Conservatives and Roberts supporters have been calling all week for NARAL to pull the advertisement.

“This ad grossly distorts the record of John Roberts from start to finish,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “It has only one goal: to associate John Roberts with violent extremists.”

Senate Democrats have not taken a position on the ad. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, told The Associated Press that ads for and against Roberts wouldn’t sway senators weighing the confirmation.

“There has been much furor over these ad campaigns, but I believe that television advertisements are not the point, and should not be the focus of debate or discussion,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday.

Schumer said he would ask Roberts about the constitutionality of abortion clinic protesting at his confirmation hearing.

In 1991, Roberts helped write _ on behalf of the government _ a Supreme Court brief in Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic. In that case, the court limited the federal help available to abortion clinic owners who seek to stop blockades by protesters.


Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report.


On the Net:

NARAL Pro-Choice America: http://www.prochoiceamerica.org

U.S. Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov

Senate Judiciary Committee: http://www.judiciary.senate.gov

© 2005 The Associated Press