The Nominee's Position On the Issue of Abortion

FOLLOWING are excerpts from an exchange between Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D) of Ohio and Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas on the issue of abortion during Day 2 of the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings.Senator Metzenbaum: You said that you support a right to privacy. Frankly, I was surprised to hear you say that. I have not been able to find anything in your many speeches or articles to suggest that you support a right to privacy. Unfortunately, the committee has learned the hard way that a Supreme Court nominee's support for the right to privacy doesn't automatically mean that he or she supports that fundamental right when it involves a woman's right to abortion. I must ask you to tell us here and now whether you believe that the Constitution protects a woman's right to choose to terminate her pregnancy, and I am not asking you as to how you would vote in connection with any case before the court. Judge Thomas: It is important for any of us who are judges, in areas that are very deeply contested, in areas I think we all understand ... are sensitive to both sides of a very difficult debate, that for us who are judges, we have to [ask] ourselves Are we impartial or will we be perceived to be impartial?" I think that to take a position would undermine my ability to be impartial, and I have attempted to avoid that in all areas of my life after I became a judge. Metzenbaum: I will just repeat the question.... I am not asking you to prejudge the case, I am just asking you whether you believe that the Constitution protects a woman's right to choose to terminate her pregnancy? Thomas: I believe the Constitution protects the right to privacy. And I have no reason or agenda to prejudge the issue or to predispose to rule one way or the other on the issue of abortion, which is a difficult issue. Metzenbaum: I am not asking you to prejudge it.... You certainly can express an opinion as to whether or not you believe that a woman has a right to choose to terminate her pregnancy without indicating how you expect to vote in any particular case. And I am asking you to do that. Thomas: Senator, I think to do that would seriously compromise my ability to sit on a case of that importance and involving that important issue.

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