With so much emphasis placed on determining Alito's position on Roe, I'm wondering about the status of Roe as a landmark case in constitutional law. Although no one will openly admit it, Roe is used today as a litmus test to see if a nominee's positions are out of the mainstream. There are many other important decisions, so why is Roe so important?
What does Roe represent to the Left? It guaranteed women the right an abortion in early term pregnancies through finding a constitutional right. But I don't think that finding the right by itself explains the Left's infatuation because most Americans are willing to enact laws that would give them the same right.
I believe Roe is a starting point. It is the decision that epitomizes reproductive rights and freedoms; and those freedoms garnered women the ability to control their life. A women who can decide when and where to end a pregnancy is a women who is free to live her life as she sees fit. She can decide to have a family or not to have a family. She can choose career over children. These freedoms are the central element of feminism.
The overarching concern of the Left is equality (not liberty since they conflict). A woman can only be equal if she not only has the same rights, but also the same impediments as men. Men do not have to stop their career if the birth control fails. Only an iron-clad, guaranteed right to abortion can truly equalize women and men in the eyes of the intellectual Left (and by that I mean the people who actually understand that overturning Roe will not end abortion in the US). It is not enough to leave the abortion question to democratic deliberation because there's a chance these freedoms will be constrained.
So in essence a nominee who opposes Roe is a nominee who opposes women's equality.