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Abortion Demonstrators Protest Justice O’Connor’s Visit

August 11, 1990

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) _ About 100 pro-choice abortion demonstrators carried signs, chanted slogans and staged a ″die-in″ to protest a visit Friday night by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

O’Connor addressed about 500 people at the annual banquet of the Herbert Hoover Library Association. But in her 39-minute speech, O’Connor did not touch upon the abortion issue.

Instead, she gave a long history of President Hoover’s three appointments - Charles Evans Hughes, Owen J. Roberts and Benjamin Cardozo - during his term.

Hoover’s appointees were picked for their qualifications as jurists instead of their political ideology, she said. Hoover believed firmly in the independence of the high court from governmental interference, O’Connor said.

″The court underwent the most fundamental shift in constitutional jurisprudence in the court’s history,″ she said.

Although O’Connor wasn’t in town to speak about abortion, activists from both sides of the issue held demonstrations before the speech.

Members of the Reproductive Rights Coalition of Iowa City and New Wave, a student group at the University of Iowa, heavily outnumbered those from the Johnson County Right to Life group, who showed up in support of O’Connor.

The two groups yelled at each other and shoved signs in each other’s faces but no disturbances broke out.

O’Connor, who has said she finds abortion personally abhorrent, has been considered a key vote on abortion. In a 1989 ruling, she joined a 5-4 majority giving states new power to limit abortions. But she stopped short of providing a fifth vote to overturn the basic abortion rights ruling.

Carrying a sign splattered with red paint that read, ″Sandra Day Go Away,″ Gregory Eiselein said he blamed O’Connor for ″moving the Supreme Court more and more to the right.″

″It seems to me that Sandra Day O’Connor has made her impact on the Supreme Court,″ Eiselein said. ″She’s leading the overturning of Roe vs. Wade,″ the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Members of the Johnson County Right to Life countered by yelling ″baby killers″ and carried signs just outside the Hoover association’s banquet room at the Holiday Inn.

″I think we need to stand up for what’s right,″ said Kevin Rocca of Iowa City. ″You can’t just sit around and let a bunch of confused people who have their own ideas make policy for the rest of us.″

During the ″die-in,″ about 20 men and women lay on the red bricks of the pedestrian mall outside the hotel. A member of the New Wave group, parodied Supreme Court Chief Justice William Renquist by dressing in a white wig and black robe, stood over them and outlined their bodies with yellow chalk.

O’Connor’s speech would focus on Hoover’s presidency from 1929 to 1933 and his effect on the Supreme Court, said Tom Walsh, executive director of the library association.

The Herbert Hoover Library is located in nearby West Branch, birthplace of the nation’s 31st president.

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