A leading U.S. abortion rights advocacy group pulled a controversial television advertisement on Thursday that accuses Supreme Court nominee John Roberts of supporting an abortion clinic bomber and excusing violence.
The decision to withdraw the ad came after Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a scathing letter to the group, calling the 30-second ad "blatantly untrue and unfair."
The bombing shown in the video occurred seven years after Roberts filed a legal brief cited in the ad, according to Annenberg Political Fact Check. The non-profit group added that the brief also dealt with abortion clinics' ability to use an anti-discrimination statute against anti-abortion demonstrators, CNN reports.
In a response to Specter, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League President Nancy Keenan wrote, "Unfortunately, the debate over that advertisement has become a distraction from the serious discussion we hoped to have with the American public.
"We also regret that many people have misconstrued our recent advertisement about Mr. Roberts' record," Keenan said.
She told Specter the group "will continue to educate the public about the threat we firmly believe Mr. Roberts' elevation to the Supreme Court would have on American women's reproductive health and, ultimately, their lives."
The ad is being replaced, Keenan said, by another that "examines Mr. Roberts' record on several points, including his advocacy for overturning Roe v. Wade, his statement questioning the right to privacy, and his arguments against using a federal civil rights law to protect women and their doctors and nurses from those who use blockades and intimidation."
The original ad aired on CNN, which also ran an ad supporting Roberts' candidacy by the Progress for America group. The NARAL ad had criticized Roberts, saying he had "filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted court bomber."
"America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans," the ad said.
Specter, who supports abortion rights, urged the group to cancel the ad because it "unfairly attacks" Roberts.
Critics had ripped the ad for talking about a brief Roberts wrote in connection with a 1993 Supreme Court ruling, but using images from a clinic bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, years after the ruling.
Responding to Specter, NARAL said in a letter it regrets that many people had "misconstrued" an advertisement it said was aimed at focusing attention on Roberts' record.
"Unfortunately, the debate over that advertisement has become a distraction from the serious discussion we hoped to have with the American public," NARAL president Nancy Keenan said.
The Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling gave women the constitutional right to choose an abortion.