Right to Life asks judge to step aside

Thursday, March 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ An anti-abortion group wants a judge to step aside in a Planned Parenthood case because his late wife, teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe, supported the group.

``In her obituary, it was widely publicized _ I assume by her husband and her family _ that she was very closely aligned with Planned Parenthood,'' Barbara Hagan of New Hampshire Right to Life said Tuesday.

The group wants U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe to let someone else hear a Planned Parenthood lawsuit over the siting of a women's health clinic in Manchester. Planned Parenthood is challenging the Manchester Zoning Board's decision to revoke a building permit for the clinic.

The board initially approved the permit, but revoked it after opponents argued the board had been given false information.

McAuliffe could not be reached for comment Wednesday morning.

Christa McAuliffe, a teacher at Concord High School, was selected in a nationwide competition to become the first civilian in space. She planned to teach classes while orbiting the Earth in the space shuttle Challenger.

She and the rest of the Challenger's crew died when the shuttle exploded soon after liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986.

Hagan noted that conflicts of interest by judges were at the heart of last year's impeachment crisis at the state Supreme Court.

``I think in light of the scandal which has rocked the state Supreme Court that it is proper for Judge McAuliffe to step aside on this one, because the residents of Manchester will never know whether he can be objective enough,'' she said.

Hagan could not immediately produce a copy of the obituary she referred to. But at least one book about Christa McAuliffe said she had volunteered for a number of community organizations, including a family planning clinic in Concord where she worked as a receptionist.

Right to Life is not a party to the lawsuit, so it cannot formally request that McAuliffe step aside.

The City of Manchester apparently will not ask McAuliffe to step aside. Asked if Hagan's concerns raised questions about McAuliffe's impartiality, City Solicitor Thomas Clark said simply, ``No.''