Diane Wood: Abortion Debate Hits Possible Court Nominee

Wood's record brings her potential nomination under fire

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Short-listed possible Supreme Court nominee Diane Wood, who once taught alongside Barack Obama at the University of Chicago Law School, has not been formally nominated, yet her record on abortion is already under heated debate. Here's what commentators are saying about Wood's abortion stance, and what that fight says about the state of abortion politics today.

  • The Big Controversial Case  Via the Washington Post's Rachel Weiner, SCOTUSblog's Kristina Moore reviewed the case's meaning. "Her most commonly discussed reversal is in Scheidler  v. National Organization for Women (2003), in which an 8-1 Court (Stevens dissenting) rejected the Seventh Circuit’s application of RICO laws in a suit against abortion protest groups. But Wood’s opinion was a judgment primarily about injunctive relief and the breadth of the racketeering statute, not on the right to provide an abortion or to protest."
  • 'Radical' Abortion Rulings  The National Review's Ed Whelan makes the case. "No judge whom I’m aware of is more extreme than Wood on abortion. Her defiance of the Supreme Court’s mandate in NOW v. Scheidler (and her incurring successive 8-1 and 8-0 reversals by the Court) ought alone to be disqualifying. In addition, Wood has (in dissent) voted to strike down state laws banning partial-birth abortion and (again in dissent) voted to strike down an Indiana informed-consent law that was in all material respects identical to the law upheld by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey."
  • You Call This Radical?  Slate's Emily Bazelon finds a pretty conventional liberal record. "In revisiting a decade-old Supreme Court ruling that made abortions harder to obtain, Wood clearly took a pro-choice stance. But is this ruling radical or outside the mainstream of constitutional thought? Only if the right has succeeded in stifling every last judicial impulse to ensure that women can have unburdened access to abortion."
  • Actually, She's Kind of Libertarian  Time's Michael Scherer writes, "the conservative caricature of Wood as a sort of judicial extremist blurs the reality. She has earned praise from people across the ideological spectrum. In one recent case, Bloch v. Frischholz, Wood had dissented, arguing that condo residents had a federal claim of religious discrimination in response to a building rule that prohibited the hanging of a mezuzah, a traditional Jewish scroll, on a hallway doorframe. 'She has the ideal judicial temperament,' libertarian scholar Richard Epstein told the New Republic last year."
  • Reveals Our Screwy Confirmation System  Liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias sighs that Wood's "real crime" isn't her rulings, but that she had the "misfortune" to hear a controversial case at all. "If Elena Kagan winds up getting the nod in favor of Wood it will in part be another triumph for the unfortunate trend toward 'never say anything about anything' legal scholarship. ... The overall trend has been toward an unfortunate situation in which the ideal nominee is someone with no record on anything anyone is interested in."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.