World

Trump’s nominee sidesteps question on landmark abortion ruling

WASHINGTON : US President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett yesterday told her US Senate confirmation hearing that her religious views would not affect her decisions on the bench and declined to say if she believes the landmark 1973 ruling legalising abortion was properly decided.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing also presented Ms 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.

Ms 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," Ms Barrett said.

In responding to questions about abortion, which was legalised by the Supreme Court in a 1973 ruling called Roe v Wade, Ms 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 Ms 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.

DISTURBING

Ms Feinstein told Ms Barrett it was "disturbing" that she would not give an answer.

Ms 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," she said.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, the committee's chairman, opened the questioning by asking her about her conservative legal philosophy known as originalism, in which laws and the Constitution are interpreted based on the meaning they had at the time they were enacted.

"That meaning doesn't change over time and it's not for me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it," she said. - REUTERS

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