WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama criticized recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions as hypocritical and inconsistent on Tuesday, saying a ruling upholding a late-term abortion ban was part of a concerted effort to roll back women’s rights.
Obama and Democratic White House rival Hillary Clinton, making separate appearances at a conference of abortion rights activists, pointed with pride to their Senate votes against the confirmation of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.
The two leading Democrats in the 2008 presidential race courted women activists at the conference and said President George W. Bush was taking direct aim at overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion.
Obama said the court’s 5-4 rulings to uphold the late-term abortion ban, make it harder for women to sue over pay discrimination and strike down race-based school assignment programs were part an effort “to steadily roll back the hard-won rights of American women.”
“There is an inconsistency, and I believe a hypocrisy, in terms of how we see these decisions being issued,” the Illinois senator said of the Supreme Court.
“When the science is inconvenient, when the facts don’t match up with the ideology, they are cast aside,” he said.
Analysts say the top U.S. federal court, led by Roberts and with its newest member Alito, shifted sharply to the right in the last session. Clinton accused Bush of pursuing a conservative political agenda through judicial nominations.
“At the top of the list was this effort to try to overturn Roe vs Wade or at least try to chip away at it,” Clinton said, adding the Bush administration has waged war against contraception education and “set out from Day One to dismantle reproduction rights around the world.”
Also appearing at the conference sponsored by the action fund of Planned Parenthood, a leading provider of reproductive services including abortion, was Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential contender John Edwards.
Clinton, a New York senator, leads Democratic White House contenders six months before the first votes in the nominating race and 16 months before the November 2008 election. Polls show her with large leads among Democratic women voters.
Both she and Obama said they would take a different approach in their Supreme Court appointments than Bush.
“I would appoint well-qualified judges who really respect the Constitution,” Clinton said.
Obama said he would look into the heart of a potential Supreme Court nominee. “We need somebody who’s got the empathy to recognize what it’s like to be a young teen-aged mom,” he said.