The Nominee's Position On the Issue of Abortion
WASHINGTON — 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.