Bush Nominee to Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Grilled

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Bush Nominee to Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Grilled
By Jeff Johnson
CNSNews.com Congressional Bureau Chief
July 23, 2002

Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - Despite overwhelming support in her state, many Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and every major liberal special interest group in Washington oppose Bush nominee Priscilla Owen, a second-term justice on the Texas Supreme Court.

Owen, a single mother and an honor graduate of the Baylor University School of Law, earned the endorsement of Texas Republicans and Democrats, as well as every major newspaper in Texas for her nomination to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

She appeared before the committee Tuesday to face what ranking member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called a "pathetic" attack on her character and record.

"I think a lot of these people have made up their minds on the committee," he said. "It's very unfair and, as you can see, some of these questions are trying to lay snares, hoping that they can trip her up."

Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest owner of fee-for-service abortion clinics, called Owen an "extremist willing to trample the rights of young women" for her interpretation of a Texas law requiring that minors be sufficiently "mature and well-informed" before receiving a judicial bypass of the requirement to notify one parent 48 hours prior to obtaining an abortion.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) attempted to paint Owen as a pro-life activist seeking to impose her beliefs, rather than state and federal law, in that area.

"You are, in a sense, a judicial activist," Feinstein said. "You went beyond the law, as the law was written in Texas, with respect to notification."

Owen disagreed, noting that the Texas legislature pulled the language it used in the judicial bypass statute almost directly from previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

"The Texas legislature, when they said 'well-informed' wanted us to look at what the U.S. Supreme Court had said states may encourage women to know about the abortion decision to be informed, to make an informed choice," Owen said. "I lifted directly out of those cases the issues that the Supreme Court had identified that they thought it was okay for states to look at in making this decision."

The author of the law in question agreed with Owen. In a letter released from the office of Texas State Senator Florence Shapiro ® July 22, she wrote:

"I believe Justice Owen's rulings do not center around the right to an abortion, but rather when a judicial bypass could be granted...Justice Owen never argued that this young girl had no right to an abortion. She agreed, based on the statute itself, with the trial court and the appellate court, which ruled that if the girl decided to receive an abortion, her parents should be notified."

Hatch says the attack on Owen is not just about liberalism or abortion.

"This is their way of trying to get back at President Bush. These outside groups are vicious," he said. "They're very upset that the president is so well-liked by the American people."

Owen's confirmation hearing was still underway when this story was filed for publication. Sen. Feinstein had indicated that her hearing might be continued into Wednesday.
 

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