President Bush, John Kerry Differ on Supreme Court Appointments in Debate

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 9, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

President Bush, John Kerry Differ on Supreme Court Appointments in Debate Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 9, 2004

St. Louis, MO ( — With a partial shift in the second presidential debate to domestic issues from foreign policy, President Bush and John Kerry differed on pro-life issues ranging from abortion to stem cell research. The wide gulf between the candidates was also seen in comments referring to potential Supreme Court appointments.

With as many as four possible appointments to the Supreme Court coming up in the next few years, the next president will have tremendous power to shape the legality of abortion — potentially for decades.

President Bush said he didn’t have anyone specifically in mind yet for a Supreme Court vacancy.

"I would pick somebody who would not allow their personal opinion to get in the way of the law. I would pick somebody who would strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States," the president explained.

"And so, I would pick people that would be strict constructionists," Bush added. "We’ve got plenty of lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Legislators make law; judges interpret the Constitution."

Such language has typically been used to refer to justices such as Atoninin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — two jurists who disagree that a right to abortion or assisted suicide exists in the Constitution.

In fact, Senator Kerry mentioned the two judges by name in an attempt to paint Bush as an extremist on Supreme Court picks.

Kerry said Bush indicated "his two favorite justices are Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas."

"So you get a pretty good sense of where he’s heading if he were to appoint somebody," Kerry said.

As he has in the past, Kerry said he would appoint judges who would support abortion.

"Will women’s rights be protected? … Will a woman’s right to choose be protected," Kerry asked. "These are constitutional rights, and I want to make sure we have judges who interpret the Constitution of the United States according to the law."

Leading abortion advocacy groups such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood have made the Supreme Court a top issue in the presidential election, saying that legal abortion would be overturned if Bush is re-elected.

In 1973, the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion by a 7-2 vote. The current court backs abortion by a 6-3 margin.

The next president could appoint as many as four new Supreme Court justices and elevate one of the high court’s members to the Chief Justice position.

Associate Judges Sandra Day O’Connor, John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who back abortion, and pro-life Chief Justice William Rehnquist are all considered likely retirees over the next few years.

President Bush has a strong record thus far of appointing pro-life judges to key federal court positions.

Related web sites:

President Bush-John Kerry Contest Could Decide Abortion for 30 Years –