Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett sidesteps abortion ruling question
Washington: President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Tuesday told her US Senate confirmation hearing that her religious views would not affect her decisions on the bench and declined to say whether she believes the landmark 1973 ruling legalising abortion nationwide was properly decided.
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing also presented Barrett with a chance to respond to Democratic lawmakers who have been unified in opposing her on what they say would be her role in undermining the Obamacare healthcare law and its protection for patients with pre-existing conditions.
Barrett, facing questioning by senators for the first time, declined to say if she would consider stepping aside from the case, as Democrats have requested, saying she would follow rules on recusal, which give individual justices the final say.
"That's not a question I can answer in the abstract," Barrett said.
In responding to questions about abortion, which was legalised by the Supreme Court in a 1973 ruling called Roe v. Wade, Barrett said she would, as in other cases, consider the various factors usually applied when justices weigh whether to overturn a precedent.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the panel's top Democrat, asked Barrett whether she believed Roe v. Wade, which recognised a woman's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, was properly decided. She declined to answer.
Feinstein told Barrett it was "disturbing" that she would not give an answer.
Religious conservatives are hoping the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.
Barrett pledged to follow the rules that bind justices when considering whether to overturn precedent.
"I promise to do that for any issue that comes up, abortion or anything else. I'll follow the law," Barrett said.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, the committee's chairman, asked Barrett, a devout Catholic and a favourite of religious conservatives, whether she could set aside her religious beliefs in making decisions as a justice.
"I can," Barrett said.
Barrett called the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom she served as a clerk two decades ago, as her mentor, but said she would not always rule the same way as him.
"You would not be getting Justice Scalia, you would be getting Justice Barrett. That is so because originalists don’t always agree," she said.
Barrett sat alone at a table facing the senators.
Barrett was nominated to a lifetime post on the court on September 26 by Trump to replace the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.