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An Open Letter To Justice O'Connor: Please Rescind Your Resignation

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Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
Supreme Court of the United States
Washington, DC 20543

Dear Madame Justice O'Connor,

First and foremost, as your fellow American I want to thank you for your 24 years of highly distinguished service as a Supreme Court Associate Justice. While I have not agreed with every single one of your decisions and opinions, I have and continue to hold your legal and judicial mind in the highest of respect. Our nation owes you an incalculable debt of gratitude.

It is this debt of gratitude that renders so many Americans deeply sensitive about the highest of personal reasons you have cited in your resignation letter to President George W. Bush. I and so many others have the deepest personal connection to your pain of feeling the overarching need to care for a beloved who needs us so much.

Yet in this time of respect for your accomplishments and reasoned judgment, we note the likely possibility that - as your late distinguished colleague and fellow registered Republican Justice Harry Blackmun once wrote, "a chill wind blows."

Madame Justice, I am specifically referring to the very stark possibility that should your successor be confirmed, there would be a Supreme Court majority who would not recognize the right of a pregnant 17-year-old girl from a violent or particularly pious home to confront with her most compelling ordeal that lies ahead of her in a way that she, her doctor, and her conscience call for her to do. There would likely be a possibility that a 37 year-old career woman rendered pregnant due to contraceptive failure be forced to carry the fetus to term or travel to a state where her rights would still be protected. And there would likely be the matter of the 27 year-old woman from a part of the country where her reproductive rights would no longer be protected, trying to find the fare for a bus trip to a state where the full range of her legal options could be explored.

Madame Justice, you have been a persuasive Judicial force for keeping these "undue burden(s)" in check. But may I, as one deeply appreciative and respectful American, ask you if you would consider requesting President Bush to rescind your resignation request until the conclusion of the current Supreme Court term?

My request in doing so would be because of my very real fears that in the short term, a fractious and most contentious confirmation battle lies ahead that would be injurious to the civic good- and in the long term such an appointment might lead to decisions that would fundamentally change our society - and the rights we have- for years if not decades to come. With respect and humility, I and so many other Americans frankly wish for a perpetuation of your guidance and wisdom on the Court.

I don't know if this is legally possible, but my hope would be that as a still-sitting Justice, the perogative might still be with yourself. Should you decide to consider this option, my deepest hope would be for you to be able to summon the wisdom and strength you are known for in order to make the most appropriate decision that balances the personal and familial needs so many of us deeply understand, with the appreciation of the calming influence your remaining on the court can give to this nation in this time.