Emily Lyons, a nurse who was seriously injured in a 1998 bombing of aBirmingham, Ala., women's clinic, appears in a 30-second ad by NARALPro-Choice America that started airing Tuesday.
"His record demonstrates a commitment to siding with the very groupsthat threatened, intimidated and bombed women's clinics," Lyons toldreporters in Washington, where the ad was announced.
The ad was denounced by Roberts' advocates as deceitful, signaling anescalation in the debate over his nomination to replace retiring JusticeSandra Day O'Connor.
President Bush nominated Roberts, currently a federal judge in theDistrict of Columbia, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will beginconfirmation hearings next month. Until then, special interest groups willcontinue dissecting Roberts' record for ammunition to either support or sinkhis confirmation.
At least some criticism is coming from the right.
On Wednesday (Aug. 10), Public Advocate of the United States, arelatively obscure conservative group based in Virginia, held a newsconference in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to announce it was withdrawingits support of Roberts because it opposes the nominee's past support of gayrights. As a partner with a Washington law firm, Roberts helped overturn aColorado law that exempted gays from state anti-discrimination measures.
Abortion rights advocates at NARAL take issue with a brief Roberts wrotein 1991, when he was with the solicitor general's office in President GeorgeH.W. Bush's administration. The case involved whether an 1871 law tosuppress the work of the Ku Klux Klan could be applied to abortionprotesters who tried to block access to clinics, such as Operation Rescue.Roberts did not defend the violent tactics but argued the federal law didnot apply to abortion protesters.
"America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuseviolence against other Americans," the announcer in the ad states.
But the Supreme Court agreed with Roberts and the abortion protestgroups, and Roberts' allies disputed the allegation that the nominee's legalposition amounted to condoning violence.
"To associate a man of John Roberts' character and integrity withcriminals is simply deceitful," said C. Boyden Gray, chairman of theCommittee for Justice, a group that backs Bush's judicial nominees.
The Republican National Committee also cited a memo Roberts wrote yearsago regarding presidential pardons for clinic bombers in which he said, "Nomatter how lofty or sincerely held the goal, those who resort to violence toachieve it are criminals."
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Lyons said theydid not believe Roberts endorses violence by people who oppose abortion,only that he chose to make a legal argument that they favored.
"He was saying the federal government shouldn't step in to protectclinics and that in itself is wrong," Lyons said Tuesday from Birmingham.
Although the anti-abortion groups won the case in 1993, Congress laterpassed a law specifically against blocking access to women's health clinics.
Lyons' comments in the ad were originally filmed for a 1998 ad aboutclinic access that was relevant to the debate in a New York race for theU.S. Senate.
"I'm determined to stop this violence so I'm speaking out," Lyons saidin the ad.
She has had 21 surgeries since the bombing. Eric Robert Rudolph pleadedguilty to the attack, which killed an off-duty police officer, and was giventwo life sentences without the possibility of parole.
NARAL is spending $500,000 to run the ad for two weeks on CNN and Foxcable networks and in Maine and Rhode Island, home to Republican senatorswith voting records supporting abortion rights.
Later Tuesday, a group called Progress for America launched a responsead in the same markets calling the NARAL spot a "desperate and false attack,recklessly distorting Judge Roberts' record."