Abortion Ruling Sparks a Backlash for Catholic Justices

Observers raise questions about justices' faith after abortion ruling.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 4:13 PM

April 24, 2007 — -- The Supreme Court's landmark abortion ruling last week has triggered an anti-Catholic backlash, with critics pointing to the Catholic faith of the five justices in the majority and suggesting their religious views influenced their decision in the case.

The allegations have outraged Catholic organizations and conservative commentators, who have called the criticism bigoted and intolerant.

In the days after the court's 5-4 decision upholding the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, a number of liberal commentators homed in on religious views of the justices in the majority who had voted to uphold the act.

Talk show panelist Rosie O'Donnell was among the first to make the point.

"You know what concerns me?" O'Donnell asked last week on ABC's "The View." "How many Supreme Court judges are Catholic?"

"Five," said host Barbara Walters.

"Five," O'Donnell said. "How about separation of church and state in America?"

Walters counseled against drawing conclusions, saying, "We cannot assume that they did it because they're Catholic."

But O'Donnell had more to say.

"If men could get pregnant," O'Donnell said, "abortion would be a sacrament."

The comments sparked immediate outrage. Nationally syndicated radio talk show host Laura Ingraham has led the battle against O'Donnell, urging listeners to e-mail ABC to protest what she calls O'Donnell's "anti-Catholic bigotry."

"'The View's' Rosie O'Donnell continues on her tear down the path of the Rich and Unhinged, this time with an anti-Catholic rant against the Supreme Court," Ingraham wrote on her Web site. "Could she ever get away with denigrating the Muslim faith this way?"

At issue in the court's decision last week was the constitutionality of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which Congress passed in 2003 with bipartisan support. In all, 17 Senate Democrats voted for it, as did 47 Senate Republicans. Congress passed the law after the Supreme Court in 2000 struck down similar laws in about 30 states.