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Supreme Court Nominee's wife aided local anti-abortion group
Posted on Fri, Jul. 22, 2005
Nominee's wife aided local anti-abortion group
BY DION LEFLER The Wichita Eagle
The wife of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts once helped to start an anti-abortion group in Wichita, according to the former president of the group.
Jane Sullivan Roberts, a lawyer, assisted the Wichita chapter of Feminists for Life in setting up its nonprofit corporation status, said Lisa Bellecci-St. Romain, who was president of the group in the early to mid-1990s.
Bellecci-St. Romain said she didn't initially connect Jane Roberts to John Roberts. But after seeing her picture on a Web site, she recognized her immediately.
She said she had participated in several meetings with Jane Roberts in Washington.
"She helped set up the nonprofits for everyone," Bellecci-St. Romain said. "She did that kind of background work for us."
Bellecci-St. Romain remembered Jane Roberts as being quiet yet professional.
Although most of the meetings were held on weekends, Jane Roberts always wore dark business suits, Bellecci-St. Romain said.
"She's a good person, competent and a good lawyer," she said. "I have a lot of respect for her. To know he (John Roberts) is married to her is a good sign."
President Bush nominated John Roberts, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, for the high court seat that is being vacated by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Jane Roberts' anti-abortion activism could become an issue as her husband seeks Senate confirmation.
The public record of his views on abortion is ambiguous.
He called Roe v. Wade -- the landmark Supreme Court decision guaranteeing a woman's right to an abortion --"wrongly decided" when he was a government lawyer in the first Bush administration.
Later, in his confirmation hearing for the D.C. circuit court, he characterized it as the "settled law of the land."
Activists on both sides acknowledge that he could be the swing vote on whether to overturn Roe v. Wade.
"We are gravely concerned because we know what hangs in the balance," said Julie Burkhart of ProKanDo, a Wichita abortion-rights advocacy group. "We want to make sure all women and all citizens across the U.S. have the same rights."
Jane Roberts was a volunteer member of the national Feminists for Life's board of directors from 1995 to 1999. She has provided legal assistance to the organization and been recognized as a contributor who donated from $1,000 to $2,500, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
Sherrin Foster, president of the organization, told the Times that Jane Roberts maintains her ties by writing for the group's quarterly newsletter and offering legal advice.
Bellecci-St. Romain said if Jane Roberts does influence her husband's thinking, it will be with logic.
"The influence she has is not going to be an emotional one, but a measured and rational response," Bellecci-St. Romain said. "Whatever she has is solid, thoughtful and step-by-step."
Primarily made up of celebrities and wealthy and politically well-connected women, Feminists for Life is far less militant in its tactics than groups such as Operation Save America, which is well-known to Wichitans for its clinic protests and graphic displays of aborted fetuses.
Feminists for Life focuses mainly on high-level lobbying and presentations to university women, Bellecci-St. Romain said.
Before moving to Washington, the organization was headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., from 1984 to 1994.
But despite that proximity, Feminists for Life had little contact with regional groups such as Right to Life of Kansas and Kansans for Life, said Mark Gietzen, a longtime Wichita anti-abortion activist.
But Gietzen did remember an incident in 1992, when Feminists for Life was denied exhibit space and ordered off the grounds of a Women's Fair at the Mid-America All-Indian Center, because of its anti-abortion views.
The group wound up banished to a nearby parking lot, where members distributed leaflets as people left the fair.
The Wichita chapter wound down in about 1998 as the national group moved away from grassroots organizing, said Bellecci-St. Romain, who still writes articles for the group's newsletter.