By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Even while insisting that he would not impose a “litmus test” on abortion rights, President Obama made it perfectly clear that he will nominate a Supreme Court justice who shares his view that “women should have the ability to make often very difficult decisions about their own bodies and issues of reproduction.”
During a meeting yesterday with Congressional leaders, President Obama told the press that it is “very important” that his choice to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens be someone who shares his view that women should have the right to choose abortion.
He went on to say that he would not use a single-issue such as abortion to judge a candidate, “But I will say that I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women’s rights. And that’s going to be something that’s very important to me, because I think part of what our core constitutional values promote is the notion that individuals are protected in their privacy and their bodily integrity. And women are not exempt from that.”
Many believe his answer actually confirmed the fact that he intended to use a “litmus test” on abortion rather than reassure the public that he would choose an impartial judge.
The White House later attempted to spin the president’s remarks. “I think a litmus test is when you say, will you ask a direct question about _ do you believe this? Do you believe that?” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “I think the president will ask any nominee discuss how they view the Constitution and the legal principles enshrined in it.”
At present, the president is considering 10 people: Ann Williams of Chicago, Diane Wood, Merrick Garland and Sidney Thomas, former Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow.
Irregardless of their position on abortion, the next Justice will not change the ideological balance on the court. Justice Stevens, who turned 90 on Tuesday, was the leader of the court’s liberals and has played a major role in the court’s upholding of abortion rights.
However, conservative leaders on the Hill have already warned that they will use their 41 votes in the Senate to filibuster any nominee who is too liberal, a position that would put them in league with most American voters.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research poll conducted yesterday, 73 percent of Americans would prefer the President nominate a moderate or conservative to the bench, with another 56 percent saying it would be acceptable for conservative lawmakers to filibuster a nominee over his or her ideology.
Conservative leaders have promised to give the president’s choice a fair hearing, but have also issued a stern warning against any nominee who would “enter the courtroom with preconceived outcomes in mind, or work to arrive at the preferred result of any president or political party. A Supreme Court justice must not be a rubber stamp or policy arm for any administration.”
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